Chicane Takes Self-Financed Route Back To Stardom

Named after one of the obstacles found on a motor racing circuit, leading U.K. dance act Chicane's career threatened to turn into a car crash -- thanks to the effects of piracy.

Named after one of the obstacles found on a motor racing circuit, leading U.K. dance act Chicane's career threatened to turn into a car crash -- thanks to the effects of piracy.

In 2003, Nick Bracegirdle, the musician who essentially is Chicane, was a dance music sensation across Europe thanks to global hits like "Saltwater" featuring Maire Brennan of Clannad and "Don't Give Up" (both on Xtravaganza) featuring Bryan Adams. The latter hit No. 1 in the United Kingdom in 2000 and also went top 10 in Finland, Greece, Hungary, Norway and Spain and on Billboard's European Top 100 Singles chart.

In 2002, Bracegirdle signed to WEA and had just finished his third album, "Easy to Assemble," when Edgar Bronfman Jr.'s buyout of Warner Music Group resulted in the A&R manager and music director who signed him leaving the company. Bracegirdle extracted himself from his contract and prepared to release the album independently.

But the album leaked online and was pirated ruthlessly, with one Russian counterfeiter alone selling thousands of illegal CD copies and even taking the sleeve from an earlier album and digitally removing the old title. "It looked pretty convincing," says Bracegirdle who, powerless to take action, was forced to scrap the official release.

Now, Chicane is trying to rebound with a self-financed, rock-influenced fourth album, "Somersault" (Modena), out July 23 in the United Kingdom. "I've invested close to $400,000 so far, raised by selling my Ferrari and remortgaging the house," Bracegirdle says. "I've always played live with a sizable group of musicians, but now I'm financing everything myself. It is a challenge. The group and crew cost $8,000 per show."

Bracegirdle proved his hitmaking touch is still there when the album's lead single, "Stoned in Love" featuring Tom Jones, peaked in May in the United Kingdom at No. 7. But he is determined not to sign another label deal, with his manager John Kavanagh seeking further investment from corporate sponsors.

Chicane has struggled for success stateside, with career album sales totaling 71,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But Bracegirdle may yet have the last laugh on the nation that caused him so much piracy-related trouble. "Ironically, Russia is fast becoming a good market" for Chicane, he says with a laugh. "We've been there more than four times already this year."