This remarkable account is one of the most significant item on this website. It is a collection of personal memories written by Geraldine Chapman, Chris Acland's cousin, between 1992 and 1998. It includes an interview of Chris (more like a private conversation) done by his cousin in October 1996 just two weeks before Chris took his own life, and her recollections of the aftermath; the devastation it caused, letters from her family, and her conversations with Miki.
This comes from Geraldine Chapman's Geocities website, and she has graciously given me permission to reprint it here. (2017 Update: Geocities is now long gone, fortunately Geraldine's memories have been saved here.)
By Geraldine Chapman
A Postcard From Chris
"Ugh!" you say faking disgust. "Not me! If you're so fuckin' keen, you eat it!" An hour later - god it's already 2am - you're ordering pizza and drinking coffee at Topelina's on Fitzroy street. Sean came with you after all and he's still talking. How he got invited no-one will even claim responsibility for. Your opinion of Eden is really lowering fast at this point. It's a pity, you used to really like them. Sean disappears to the bathroom.
"Does that guy ever stop talking???" Chris asks as soon as Sean is out of earshot. In the morning your head hurts like fuck and you never can remember who swallowed the worm.
A Postcard From Chris
Lush - Prelude
"Uh, hi," I respond. "Um...I'd like to speak to someone who's dealing with the Lush tour?"
"That would be me!" she says brightly. "I'm Cathy. How can I help you?"
"Well, this is probably going to sound like something you've heard before, but Chris Acland, the drummer in Lush, is my cousin, and I just saw in the paper that they were touring here and, like, I'm from Australia and the last time we saw each other was when they were out there about five years ago, and I saw that they were coming here and I thought it would be really cool to catch up while we're in the same country! So, I was wondering, is there any way I can get in touch with him?"
"He's your cousin? Wow! That's cool! Well, can you fax through a letter to this office? They'll be coming in here tomorrow so I can give it to him then..."
"Yeah, that would be great, thanks!" I say.
"Just make sure you include your number, okay?" says Cathy.
"Yeah, no worries!"
"Pardon?" she sounds confused.
"No worries..." I repeat lamely.
"What do you mean?"
"It means 'no problem', fine; good...."
"Oh! Well, I'm glad I could help!"
"Thanks for your time, Cathy," I say and hang up.
Lush - Prelude #0.5
"Ger-ry!" Paul's voice reaches me outside where I'm hanging out my washing.
"What?" I yell back, clothes pegs falling from between gritted teeth.
"There's a guy on the phone for you!"
"Okay..." I leave the washing and wander back in the side door to the apartment, collecting the phone off Paul in the kitchen.
"Who is it?"
"Chris?" he answers. "Sounds English..." Paul shrugs, saunters back down the hall to his room.
"Hello?" I say.
"Gerry? It's Chris! I got your message which was a nice surprise. What on earth are you doing here?!"
"Hmm. Well that's a question and a half! I'm working with a band here, we live about an hour down the road from where you're at! I'm glad you got the fax - I wasn't sure if the PR company would pass it on. You know how they can be. How have you been anyway?"
"Good, good!" Chris responds warmly. "How about you?"
"Yeah, great thanks! I nearly died when I saw you guys were touring!"
"Do you want to come to the show tonight?" he asks "It would be good to see you again!"
"Yeah, is that okay?"
"Sure, sure! How many tickets do you want?"
"Oh just two, thanks. What time does it start?"
"Uh, we play at seven thirty."
"Whew!" I respond looking at my watch. It's five thirty. "Okay. Can you leave passes for us?"
"Sure. Just come out the back to our bus after the show; it'll be great to see you again!"
"Okay, I look forward to it! Thanks for calling Chris!"
"See you then!"
Paul and I have about five dollars between us. He stirs me up, making me wait nearly an hour before agreeing to drive me to Milwaukee. He doesn't even think he'll like Lush but I bribe him with the promise of free beer.
"There'd better be, Gerry. We better get back stage, or I'm going to be so pissed at you!" he answers darkly. This is the crux of our relationship; the continuous struggle for power over each other, punctuated with emotional blackmail; a feeding frenzy.
I peer in the window of the ticket office at the middle aged lady sitting there. Paul slouches against the side of the booth beside me, looking a little bored, a little angry, for all the world an old school punk, both of us out of place amongst the neat, fashionable kids hanging out the front of the venue waiting to see the bands.
"Uh, my cousin put my name on the door," I say, adding, "He's in one of the bands."
"Which one dear?" asks the ticket lady good naturedly.
"Lush." She flips through some sheets turning up the band's guest list.
"And what was the name?"
"It should be under Gerry Chapman," I tell her. "Plus guests."
She scans the list carefully, thoughtfully. This is the moment I always hate, like, it would be so embarrassing if my name wasn't there.
"That name isn't here," she says, and I have to repress an involuntary shudder, then "There is a Gerry but it's a different surname..." She looks at me expectantly.
"Uh, try Acland...." I say.
"No, that's not it." She says. "Can you think of any other names he would have used?"
"Oh yeah! Try Stubbings! That's my grandmother's name!"
"That's it," she smiles warmly and slips the tickets through the window to me.
At the door we're stopped by security who are adamant that Paul can't take his studded leather jacket inside. We argue mildly with them for a few minutes before Paul reluctantly agrees to put his jacket back in the car. I wait nervously at the front of the venue while he walks the block and half back to where he parked his car, feeling self conscious and out of place in my all-black clothes and bright red, dreadlocks, wearing a full face of make-up even though it's still daylight, conscious that my knees are showing through the rips in my jeans. I don't think I've ever seen so many freshly ironed white t-shirts and blue jeans gathered in one place. Inside it's even worse as they glow in the dark, highlighted by fluorescent overheads, standing out like glow-worms. I can't believe it; some teenagers are here with their parents. Fresh faced kids who look like they drove in from the surrounding suburbs and farming communities. I can hear Lush; Miki's stunning vocals and Emma's sweet jangly guitar strains - and I hurry through the foyer into the main auditorium, sidestepping stock-still standing bodies to get to the front. Hardly anyone moves. Many more are sat in the tiered theatre seating at the rear of the auditorium, ankles crossed, hands in laps. Lush are well into their set and after a few songs Paul whispers over my shoulder, "Well, I've got to tell you Gerry, I didn't think I'd like them, but they're pretty cool! That singer is gorgeous!
"Yeah, you and all my other male friends!" I reply wondering how many times I've heard male friends of mine declare their lust for Miki Berenyi. After their set, it takes us the best part of an hour to get a message to the band and get backstage, leaving us watching the disgustingly cock-rock Goo-Goo Dolls. Paul is livid. I know he wants to leave, but he remains silent, letting me continue to wait for salvation. Lush's tour manager rescues us after one of my many messages sent back stage finally gets through to the group, apologizing profusely for the delay. "Chris is out there somewhere!" he laughs waving a dismissive hand at the audience as we pass through the back stage barrier.
"He went looking for you!" We step into Lush's luxurious tour bus - all cream laminate and blood red velvet fittings - and we slot into seats in the tiny lounge area with the rest of the band who I introduce slowly, to make sure I remember them properly, to Paul.
"Isn't Chris with you?" asks Miki.
"He's still out there," says the tour manager. "We didn't see him."
"Would you like a drink?" asks Emma.
"That would be good, thanks," I reply breathing a sigh of relief.
"There's beer in the fridge," says Phil pointing to a small bar unit. "And lemonade and stuff. Help yourselves."
Paul almost dives into the bar fridge - making me consider again that he is becoming alcoholic - and chooses an expensive German import, before looking at me speculatively.
"Rolling Rock," I say and he retrieves one for me.
"That was a great show; thanks for having us up here!"
"Well, we're glad you could make it!" responds Miki just as Chris appears in the bus door.
"Ah! Gerry! You made it! I've been walking all over looking for you!" he says spotting me where I'm perched next to Phil.
"Hey," I say cheerfully. "What's up?" I stand to meet him and we embrace. "Well you look good!"
"Yeah, likewise! How have you been? How's Ewan? How long have you been in the states?"
"Whoa! One thing at a time!" And I laugh.
Paul gets drunker and drunker as the night progresses, going
through beers like it's his last night on earth. The rest of us chat
about the absurdities of being in America - an experience we feel we
can share. Stories of cultural idiosyncrasies abound - not least the
warped definitions of lemonade, cordial, fizzy drink and soda that
the Americans have and I recount various pub experiences. Sometime
Chris asks me,
"You know, I haven't got a clue!" and we dissolve into laughter. "We have a shared great-grandparent or something like that. Or your grandmother is my mother's aunt...I don't know!"
I have to ask them if they played When I Die or Ciao saying in explanation, "We were running late and I missed the start of the set."
"We don't do those live," says Miki.
"Oh! That's a shame," I reply. "I love those songs! I'm surprised you don't do Ciao..."
"Well, it's the male vocals you see!" says Emma.
"Couldn't Chris or Phil do them?" I ask cheekily. Chris actually blushes.
"No way!" says Phil.
"We tried that," says Miki.
"Ah, I'd love to see those played live...."
"Well, when you come to London, we'll play an acoustic set for you!" says Miki
"You're on!" I respond.
When we leave, Chris sees us out to the backstage gate, ignoring pleas from fans who want his autograph, and we hug, me saying, "Well, thanks for a great night! It was really good to see you again!"
"Yeah. When you come to London give me a call and we'll catch up again then! Thanks for driving her all the way up here, Paul!"
"Sure!" Paul slurs. Privately I'm wondering if he's okay to drive the 70 miles home.
"Take care Chris. I'll see you in a few months!"
On the drive home Paul and I descend into one of our deep, intense, 'bonding' conversations. He's drunk and happy and he says, "You know Gerry, I'm really glad I came with you tonight."
"Yeah, me too," I stare out the window at the passing lights on the edge of the highway. We slip into silence for a few minutes. About half way down the I-94 I see this acre block with 3 rows of about 6 trees each all lit up in the hazy northern summer dusk with fairy lights wrapped round and round their limbs. Just like the trees in Collins street. "Whoa! That was cool!" I breath.
"What's that?" asks Paul.
"There were these trees back there all covered in lights and it just looked so pretty!"
"Gerry, you're dreaming!" says Paul.
"I'm not!" I protest knowing he's fully winding me up.
"All those drugs you took warped your mind girl!" he laughs. We lapse into silence again.
"Paul, can I ask you something?"
"Why did you agree to take me up there tonight?"
"Because I knew how much it meant to you...."
[This interview originally appeared in the online Jitter Magazine in November 1996]
- Just to throw a "difficult" question at you for starters, what do you wish most people would ask you about?
- Okay, so what would you tell them?
- Well Yeah.....[Laughs]...But You Know, Your Tour Bus Was Okay, From What I Saw, That Was Pretty Luxurious!
- Well, you were saying to me when we last met up that you need to still work for a living, so what do you do as your 'day' job?
- You don't?? I must have drunk more beer than I thought!
- Oh really?!
- So what do you do with all your free time? I mean, are you spending every day writing music, or in the studio, or at rehearsal?
- You've spent a lot of time on the road over the last few years. What's been the strangest experience?
- What would be your most ideal show in that respect?
- They really try and pull the wool over your eyes?
- Yeah, I kind of get overwhelmed by the size of the place here. It's just mind boggling sometimes!
- And it's so straight here too, it's just so conservative, say compared to Australia or Europe or the UK. It's like what we were discussing earlier, you know, when I went to see you at the Milwaukee show, I was about the most alternative person there!
- You know what you were saying, that everyone thinks that being a rock 'n roll star is really glamorous and all that, and you get people coming up to you and they want to talk to you and they want a piece of you....do you ever find that weird?
- Yes you do! I've seen you! [giggling]
- Because they're at the fore front of the band.....
- Ewan said that, if I interviewed you, I had to ask you this question....
- He wants to know if you're still the most eligible bachelor in Britain?!
- I don't know. Probably some mag....he just said I had to ask you!
-Well, it's a good thing! It's good for your ego! Did you get lots of fan mail?!
- Well, I'd better wind this up. I'll send you a copy in a couple of weeks okay?
- Oh, maybe in the next couple of months, but definitely by May - it's gran's 100th birthday so I want to be over for that.
-Sure. That would be great. Well, I'll get this done and send it over. Thanks for everything Chris, I'll talk to you again soon.
17th October 1996
And earlier tonight you watched a movie and it made you cry, and you hid yourself on the fire escape stairs, sobbing in the blistering cold because you didn't want him to see you cry, and all because of a movie.
And later, after the club, you both sit drunk, drinking coffee and
eating pancakes in a diner just down the
road from home. And you're telling him.....
18th October 1996.
In music news today, Lush drummer Chris Acland was found dead in his London home yesterday morning from an apparent drug overdose....
And you start to scream. That single word "no" coming from deep
Time becomes fractured, distorted. Your whole life splitting into ageless, endless atoms, spinning in uncontrollable chaos. Nothing makes sense but everything is as it is. This is the Discordian principle at work. Logic and order within Chaos. You're dreaming. You know you are. But you cannot wake up. The sun is shining, a blurry brightness through salt tears. It should be raining. Stormy and dark. You can still hear your scream echoing inside your head. This sound will never leave you.
[This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real. This is not real ....is not real ....not what I feel .....not ...not ...not ...no! ...no! ...no! ...no!...this is a litany. This is a mantra. This is a chant. This is the lie you tell yourself.]
They say a drug overdose and you know it's a lie. That's what makes the believing so much harder. He never took drugs. You swallow poison, wanting only numbness. They say suicide and you're convinced it's not possible. He wouldn't do that. When the truth is told you groan in horror and collapse into waiting arms. He hung himself in his parents home.
For hours you wait, your thoughts darting hysterically from image to image to sound to sound. The voice on the radio imparting knowledge of death, the colour of the sky, the sound of your scream, the sheer terror that gripped you and made you want to run, the single thought that this could not be real, the sheer despair at realizing what he had done. How could you? you whisper over and over and over. How could you do this to us?
You have to ring his friend. You call her in London because you still don't believe that this is true. And she answers the phone, sounding as desperate and sick as you feel. Miki, I just heard something on the radio...... Yes, is all she says. And it's final. Now you know the truth.
Inside you are being torn apart. Inside, the one thing, the one piece of absolute truth, keeps spinning round and round, till you think you are going insane. Inside, the one last fragment of incoherent thought, the one thing that you can never share.....it should have been me. He was your hero. He was the one in the family who had made it. He was the one who had it together. He was not some junkie kid like you.
You go to sleep wrapped in darkness, numbed by pills and alcohol, listening to Mazzy Star. Listening because it is the only thing that can get inside you and lullaby you to sleep.
Letters From Home
From my mother:
From my father:
I sit here shaking, remembering again the sound of her despair, the
audible groan as I tell her he is dead,
that the son of her childhood cousin hung himself, the subtle
release I feel as I can finally be myself, say
and think what I am feeling......
Most of the time the rage and despair is contained; a thing to be bought out and lived through in the deepest parts of the night time. I remember the afternoon I spent with Miki in London earlier this year. It had been bitterly cold and trying so desperately to snow. We sat in the warmth and drank cups of tea and talked about Chris. I showed her the interview and when she laughed I knew which bits she was reading. She told me about what had happened after the tour and the depression that had gripped him. She told me about the night they went out, the night before he killed himself. She told me about the funeral. In all the talking we found no reason.
I remember all the nights since Chris died. The times in Houston, in those first weeks just after, when I thought I should just follow his lead because I thought that, if he had lost his reason to live, then I might as well just give up too because I couldn't see any hope for any of us. And I remember all the times since then, all the nights of feeling like my insides were being torn out, and all the anger and pain and confusion, because I could not understand why he had done this and I hated him for it.
I remember Mum telling me that Biddy, Chris's grandmother, had suffered a stroke - thought to be a result of his death - and that his mother, Judy, had a breakdown and was hospitalized, and the rage and despair welled up again because these people - his family - were suffering terribly and I felt for them so very much.
And out of the rage and pain and tears was born a seed of determination. The urge to strike out, hit back, live.
I remember every moment.
James' gun drills into my skin, injecting ink, leaving a lasting mark, vibrating through my bones like having a tooth filled at the dentist.
"What do the numbers mean?" James asks.
"It's a date," I say. "A reference point."
The pain engulfs me. Physical pain burning across my skin. Now I wear my heart on my sleeve. This is the final act. My grief born out, bled out, dissolved through physical suffering till all that's left is acceptance. I will wear the mark forever. An acknowledgment of a rite of passage I went through in the last year. A reminder that Chris is dead and that I chose to live. The grief is contained, subdued.
I walk a forward path.
In memory of Chris, Biddy and Judy. April 1998