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New album is Chatham songwriter’s ‘final gift to the world’ after death from heart failure

A new album will be singer-songwriter Chris Austin’s “final gift to the world” following his death from heart failure.

The Chatham-based musician died aged just 36, a day after being diagnosed with liver cancer in 2013.

Chris Austin was the driving force behind Medway band Tape Error
Chris Austin was the driving force behind Medway band Tape Error

His death prompted an outpouring of grief and tributes from family, friends and fans of his Medway-based band Tape Error.

With Chris the driving force of the band, it was the end of the road for Tape Error and plans for their debut album were given up as lost, with the home-recorded tracks stuck on Chris’ computer.

But 10 years on, the tracks have been retrieved and the album – the culmination of Chris’ life’s work – is set to finally get the release it deserves thanks to Dancing Turtle Records.

For family, friends and fans, it will create a lasting legacy for an iconic musical talent who remains fondly remembered throughout Medway and Kent.

The release will also be a special moment for band-mates, including drummer Stan Read, who recalled the impact Chris made on everyone who saw him play.

“I first met Chris when I was about 16,” said Stan. “I was playing in bands and I saw his band play one night on the same bill.

Medway band Tape Error, at Chris Austin’s house, where their album was recorded. From left, Chris Austin, Matt Bell, Stan Read and Dave Hughes. Picture: Phil Dillon
Medway band Tape Error, at Chris Austin’s house, where their album was recorded. From left, Chris Austin, Matt Bell, Stan Read and Dave Hughes. Picture: Phil Dillon

“I was completely blown away like most people who knew him and enjoyed his music. I went through school and I went through Bristol University and the whole time followed what he was up to.

“One day I saw on their Facebook page they were looking for a drummer and I reached out and it went from there really.”

Together the band played dozens of gigs around Medway, and others in London and Bristol, where Stan went to university and set about recording their songs at Chris’ house in Chatham.

“The album was recorded in his bedroom, so it’s a really rough and ready lo-fi sound,” added Stan, who explained the band had all but given up on hearing them again after Chris died.

“Basically the reason this release has taken so long is because all the files were on Chris’ computer.

“Last year I thought it’s coming up for 10 years now and there’s a lot of people want to hear this music, so we should do something about it.

“We got in touch with his brother and we got the computer sent to a friend of mine who’s a bit of a computer whizz and he managed to get into the hard drive and got all the files we needed.

“It’s going to be as we recorded them. Chris had mixed tracks, all the songs ready to go, and then I think Dom’s got someone to master them as well, so it’s going to sound exactly as Chris wanted.”

In the aftermath of Chris’ death, his family paid tribute to a unique character and gifted singer.

His mum Bev explained he was still in the womb when he attended his first music festival – Glastonbury 1974 – and that music had been his blood, with his grandfather having entertained Second World War troops, and his great-grandmother Ida having danced in music halls.

And Stan too, currently travelling in Australia, said Chris’ talent and personality influenced everyone who met him.

“He had loads of energy,” he added. “He was just really driven. Music was his life. When I knew him he didn’t have a huge social life, he was either working 9-5 five days a week in a call centre and then every evening he was writing, and then on the weekend we’d play a gig.

“He was just a real infectious personality. He had a great laugh on him and was always finding the funny side in any situation. He was a good bloke.”

Medway singer-songwriter Chris Austin
Medway singer-songwriter Chris Austin

“I was in Bristol at the time he died, and we were getting ready for big music festival in Medway called Homespun. I’d heard he was ill. I wasn’t aware how ill he was really, but I think what happened was he got taken to hospital and withing 24 hours of being told he had cancer, he discharged himself and went to go and be with his mum and his girlfriend at the time, and he passed away that night.

“It was devastating, because like I say I’d looked up to him for years as a musician, and that’s how I got to know him was in the band. Any musician will tell you that playing music with other people you develop a bond like any other, so it was devastating.”

Chris funeral ended up being a huge event, with more than 200 friends gathering for a wake at his aunt Sharon Austin’s pub, The George in Chartham, following a packed funeral service at Barham Crematorium.

Medway musicians including Lupen Crook and Crybaby Special played live and acoustic sets long into the night in a celebration of his life.

“This church was full to the rafters,” remembered Stan. “There were people stood out the back and spilling out the door. There were that many people he meant a lot to.

“Everyone went to the pub afterwards and we had a stage set up and people were playing music all afternoon and into the night, so it was good send off.”

The new album from Tape Error was the brainchild of musician Chris Austin
The new album from Tape Error was the brainchild of musician Chris Austin

Posting on Facebook last month, Tape Error announced the album, paying tribute to Chris.

“It's still difficult to put into words how Chris' absence means, more so today, 10 years on. His talent for songwriting and infectious personality have blessed so many of us.

“We're happy to announce that the Tape Error album, Chris' final gift to the world, will finally get the release it deserves later this year on September 18.

“We'd like to thank everyone who supported Chris throughout his musical career. And a special thanks to Dom, Bev, Tom and Fraser, without whom this album would not have been made a reality.

“This page has been dormant for some time, so please do what you can in sharing it with those who will want it. Spread the word in the real world, as there may be some of Chris' fans not on facebook.”

The album is available for pre-order at www.dancingturtle.com/product/tape-error-album/ and showcases Tape Error’s unique lo-fi sound, centred around Chris’ raw and honest lyrics and built up with vocal harmonies and drums.

It will be officially released on October 6.

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