tid-bits

An interview with Chris Chandler from Anti-Folk Online

April 05, 2003

Brad: Chris-   How are you?  Where are you?  And how did you get there?

Chandler: weel, I gues i am doing just fine.  I am in Pittsburgh, PA - just arrived a few hours ago.  I got here via a 1991 chevy silvaerado with Florida plates, 225,000 miles and a CD player

Brad: So how is the alternator holding up and what Cds were your traveling compainions?

Chandler: Jesus, that reminds me - I have to take that alternator back - it is sitting on the floor board.  The damned thing was faulty.  After I broke down in Charlotte (thanks by the way for being there and running me to the Parts store!) I managed to make it to Atlanta - running on just the battery.  In the middle of some ritzy neighborhood with manicured lawns - I sputtered to a halt.  I managed to hitch hike to a parts store and get another alternator.  The thing is the guy that picked me up (with no hyperbole) was a guy I had been drinking with the night before.  He was an Atlanta cop - it didn't  take long before we were arguing over Iraq.  The talk got rather heated - when he told me he was a cop.  Funny, the conversation cooled down after that.  He bought me a drink (scotch rocks)  and we talked Baseball strike.  Well... the talk got heated once again - the whole night was like that.  We both had designated drivers...
The next morning - he arrived at his car just in time to see me broken down.  He too had a big red pick up truck - only his had a confederate battle flag on the front.  He gave me a ride to the parts store - it affirms my belief that sports and Auto repair are good topics for an activist to have in their bag of tricks... you can talk down a good ol boy with sports and auto repair - as for the CDs... Ironically, I was listening to The Drive By truckers (great CD - a southern Rock Opera)  Jim Page (one of the best politico songwriters  there is - based in Seattle.)  lots of others - Dan Bern, Jason Echlund, Peter Wilde, Brenda Kahnn...

Brad: I guess we should have gone to teh other parts store and asked for Scott (inside joke) How early did you know that a life on the road was for you and has it been all that you had hoped for?

Chandler: Yea ... the other parts store - I was really impressed with those women working at the convenience store in Charlotte.  I like it when the woman behind the counter can rebuild an alternator.  She seemed disappointed when I told her the thing had caught fire and there was nothing to rebuild.  We definitely should have gone to her friend's part store - we just weren't patient enough to find it.  Now I have a defective alternator on the floorboard of my car.


As for the road... is it everything I thought it would be... well, I really have never done anything else.  People that think life is great simply have nothing to compare it to.  
Before I started performing myself I was on the road with rock bands as the light man.  I started doing lights at 13 - by 15 I made my first fake ID and was working in bars.  Been on the road ever since (minus a little swing through college)


Brad: Did you like the lighting Gig, or did you feel the need to perform.  When did you start writing songs and how has that process changed for you if any through the years?

Chandler: Yea... Lighting IS poetry.  I love the stage.  The beauty of the stage is that on gig is as important as the next.  Sure, some people feign some social hierarchy (as they do in everyday life)  Many think - performing is where it is at.  Me, I just love the stage... I have been a roadie, a grunt... hell I set up chairs, work the box office.  I have directed plays, built sets... performing is just on component of MANY that dovetail together to make one  big portrait of God.  Sure, I love to perform.  I love standing on chairs, throwing my head back and showing Jesus my tonsils.  But  I also like shining a spot light on truth and leaving in the dark the sordid minutiae that keeps us all side tracked.


Chandler: lighting is as close to BEING God as you can get.

Brad: Hey-  Get em!! What about the song writting process?   When did you start to write and have you cahnged how you do it since then?

Chandler: I was that guy in high school the recited really bad poetry with an even worse English accent.  I was not shy about showing anyone my work.  One night around 1981 - I was working for the Georgia Seattleites - when I met Phil Rockstroh.  I showed him my work - and he was the first person to tell me it sucked.  He literally started wadding up the poems and dropping them on the beer sodden floor of Hedgen's tavern (RIP)  He told me to go home and write what you know.  I did.  He became my mentor.  The first trick to writing is write what you know - the second is Know something.


Phil and I began writing together - we even went on the road together.  We fought as much as wrote.  He threw my guitar out a fourth story window.  We didn't speak fro two years.  I needed to find my own voice.  We got back together and again started writing - no longer in a student mentor relationship.  He taught me every thing I know.  (that is if I know anything at all.) he is a brilliant writer.  I wish him the best - though we haven't spoke in a year and a half.


As for these days... I try to put myself in the clothes of  the listener.  I worked for years a s a street musician... that'll teach you a great deal about the cross sections that are our culture.  Yea - you want to make a greater point - but ya gotta do it an a way that they can hear you.  Perhaps that is why I spend so much time - hanging out with strangers - some times they turn out to be an Atlanta Cop - I may not have convinced that guy that we should not invade Iraq - but I am sure he will think about it the next time the subject comes up... that is because I showed him respect with out kissing his ass.  I made him laugh... We talked football and things he could understand - then I would shift to loftier topics - then back to nascar.  I found parallels between baseball uniforms and sweatshops in Muslim countries.


It seemed to work.

Brad: Whoop-  How did you end up hookin' up with Anne?  And you said earlier that you were an activist-  what do you see yourself as being an activist for?  And what can people do to become more active?

Chandler: Anne Feeney: We met at a gathering of songwriters called "The People's Music Network" in 1989.  I had heard about the event from a hitch hiker.  Anne and I became fast friends - she liked my style of banging on the guitar and ranting songs about Ollie North and George Bush (the elder)


After a while I stared setting down the guitar and got others to play and sing (I was never a good singer and my guitar style was like Roger Manning with out the talent)  and besides I was (and still am) working on stuff that has several parts - stuff that can not be performed solo.  I put together a four piece band and we hit the road.  Hell - I can't even feed my self - let alone three others - so a few years and several bands later - I figured out that I could do this as a duo.  Anne volunteered - She is a joy to work with.  Her solo stuff nails it.  I had known her for years before I actually saw her in her element - When the cops are there and the tear gas is flying - I can't think of anyone I would rather have with a guitar in their hand.


Chandler: what was the rest of the question?

Brad: Copy/Paste = And you said earlier that you were an activist-  what do you see yourself as being an activist for?  And what can people do to become more active?
Chandler: Hmmm... I have never been single issue drive.  I find myself booked by the Unitarians, the Wobs, the Communist Party, the greens, Earth First!,


The first step in becoming more active - is to actually care about something worth acting for
Brad:You know- no one has called me on it (yet)-  but you have never considered yourself antifolk have you?  When I asked you if it would be cool to put you on my fansite- you told me that you had known Lach for awhile and had been around antifolk and considered yourself to have some sort of kinship with it.  Recently-  I was chattin with Linda Draper who just covered Phil Och's Flower Lady (great version) for a tribute album called poisoned ochs with proceeds going to Amnesty International, and she was saying that you were what all the current antifolkies want to be like in 20 years.  I was wondering if you could talk about you and antifolk since this is an antifolk fansite.   By the way per our conversation the other day-  I did email Dan Bern and to ask him if he would be cool with being on the site- so far no response

Chandler: To tell you the truth I am as Pro-folk as I am Anti Folk.


Titles, genres, categories, pigeonholes, small closets... I dunno.  The question of what is Folk music has been answered so many ways by so many people - first lets define folk music - am I anti (pick your definition)  and am I pro (pick another definition)  Do you mean do I dig Ed Hammell, and Adam Brodsky, Roger Manning, Brenda Kahn and Cindy Lee Berryhill.


Do I love Woody Guthrie and Sonny Terry, Tom Paxton and Bob Dylan?


Yes Yes Yes...


some time in the late 80s (bout the time Lach was at the Chameleon)  a new set of Singer Songwriters emerged.  They were Hopelessly Middle class.  The had expensive guitars and sang about the wows of being Middle class.  It caught on.


Suddenly people with respectable day jobs were filling the folk venues - singing about the time they got caught in traffic on their way home from work.


People called it Folk.  I hated it.  Still do - so when I heard about Lach in NYC doing something called Anti Folk - I took the first subway token I could bum - and headed straight there.


It was a great scene - still is Go Man Go!
Now they have community radio stations playing that crap (sometimes called Americana) 24 7.  Hell, I wouldn't mind if they were commercial stations - no COMMUNITY GO DAMNED radio - bought by Clear COM - taking pledge money to play homogenized pop played on an acoustic guitar - and calling it Folk Music.  Destroying the music scene in otherwise great cities.  It is a fucking crime!


me? anti folk - you bet yer ass I am!


But I love folk music.  


Anne wrote a song called - Have you been to jail for justice. It is the perfect song to play at a demonstration - when they start arresting people.  It is a song for a specific occasion - not a song meant to tug on the already unraveling heart strings of the complacent class.


It was ironic - that you - the Anti folk web guy drove across the great state of North Carolina to play a gig with the epitome  of Folk Music: Peggy Seeger.  Am I anti Peggy Seeger.. Hell NO!


I am not sure what Linda meant - perhaps she means that in 20 years the Anti-Folkies would like to be 38 and still living in a car.

Brad: I am not sure what she meant-  but I believe it was a compliment.  Currently you are makin a map of all the places you have been how is that going and could you talk about why you are doing it.

Chandler: Well, I keep running out of pins.


For some reason I started sticking pins in a map several years ago - when a band would break up and a new band formed - had to get another color pin.  I play about 200 dates a year - mainly because I have to.... I mean most of those gigs are witnessed by - say 15 people... OK I am exaggerating about the 15 people... sometimes it is only 12


No... - but - well that is a lot of pins - so I stopped putting pins in the map if I was returning to the same bar.  


My next CD will be a retrospective.  Next year will be my 15th year - and I have 10 tapes, 9 bands, 7 CDs, 3 books and 2 videos - that's a lot of crap.  I'll bet that you might could take one piece off each one of those and maybe have one decent album.


Anyway - I wanted to somehow scan the map and put it on the disk - make it interactive somehow - (but i am more or less a pin head when it comes to technology - some body told me their printer was broken the other day - and I gave them a fountain pen.)  Maybe I could make the CD click able to the different people I have worked with, traveled with, recorded with...  Maybe I could turn others on to some of them - Some people I have been on the road with - have actually gone on to do some amazing things. - I mean check out David Rovics and Danny Dollinger, Laura Freeman and Samanth Parton.


I think my only claim to fame is that I have had the good fortune to work with some very talented people.


Brad: 3 books/  I didn't know that!
Chandler: yea - one through a publisher in New Orleans called Portels Press - the other two are through that renown publisher - Kinkos.
Brad: If Kinkos only knew how close they are to revolution!!  What was the best and worst gigs that you have played?


Chandler: at the risk of sounding sophomoric - there is no such thing as best and worst - life is not bianary.  I can barely opperate a computer let alone think like one... onezeronezeronezeronezerone.
One important gig for me - was the one where I coincidentally met Anne.  I had been on the road for about a year - and I was ready to give it all up.  This hitch hiker had told me about the people's music network.  It was going to be my last hoorah - I was going to get an apartment and a job... stop playing the streets etc... No body told me Pete Fucking Seeger was going to be there.  I was asked to get up and play a song... just one song.  I did "Watergate Generation" - it took the house down.  Pete Seeger came up to me afterwards - I told him I was about to quit.  He talked me out of it.  I don't know weather to thank him or blow his mail box up.


Bad gigs - hell they all suck. every last wonderful one.  Recently I was at the OM festival in Ontario.  It was billed as a hippy sort of save the world fest.


Truth was it was a 7 stage rave - set in a pristine wilderness.  Almost all DJs and lots of x and coke - - at 7 AM I was riled out of my tent by the sound of recorded Alman bros blaring from a car stereo - one of the freaks had pulled out a tank of nitrous and was giving rubber surgical gloves full to any one who wanted it.


Anne and I - I guess were added on as the "political" token folkies (or anti-folkie as the case may be)  No one listened to us.  We sold zero CDs and getting paid was like trying to talk your way out of a speeding ticket.


Some coke head threw a water bottle at Anne's guitar - put a hole in it... she has a "bush makes me gag" sticker on her guitar (left over from King George the 1st)  the sticker is actually what saved the guitar - if it hadn't been there - the wood would have split all the way to the sound hole - ruining the guitar.


Oh - did I mention we had driven a full 24 hrs out of our way to get there?


Chandler: anyway - I'll settle down

Brad: Settle down question = what are your guilty pleasures?

Chandler: isn't that an oxymoron?
Brad: sure-  but so is plastic silverware-   yet i have some.

Chandler: my favorite is marijuana initiative  

Chandler: guilty pleasures - lets see - I masterbate too often

Brad: how bout fresh frozen, jumbo shrimp

Chandler: but don't tell anyone - especially my girl friend

Brad: is it tough having a girlfriend while traveling with another woman?

Chandler:
I was married to Amanda Stark for three years - we lived on the road in a pick up truck - with a dog.... We were a duo - Stark Raving Chandler - needless to say it didn't last - In fact we split up shortly after we made our first CD - we were contractually obligated to tour together.  After that  I vowed after that not to get romantically involved with someone I am working with - I think that is good advice. It is a vow I have managed to keep longer than any relationship.  BTW - ever since I stopped doing predominantly solo shows - I have worked with women.  I am pretty sure I always will..


Chandler: gotta run for a few - if yer around in an hour or so drop me a line - if i haven't bored you too much

Brad: Nah-   we can finish in an hour or so-   we shouldn't be too much longer

Brad: see ya

Chandler: cool

Brad: you want me to call ya

Chandler: yea

Brad: ok

Chandler: out



Chandler: yea i'm here

Brad: Oh cool -  you got time?

Chandler: does anyone "have" time

Brad: hey time waits on no one

Chandler: waiter there is some time in my soup

Brad: must be chuncky

Chandler: chun king

Brad: tell me a short story about your travels

Brad: keep it short

Chandler: there are no short stories...

Brad: well I know I have sat through some long ones before so there must be an opposite somewhere

Chandler: at the neautral ground coffee house in NOLA Isomeone on the sidewalk was selling all of thier posseions - they had clothes - a chair, a toast R oven - and some records - I thubed through the vinal and found an old Ringo Star album I had remebered from my youth.  The record is undoubtedly the best post beatle album made by any of them other than john... anyway... I rembered it fondly - I remembered selling it in a garage sale back in Stone Mtn GA myself for a dollar.  I pulled the inside booklet out and I noticed some drawings made by... made by me.  Yes it was actually My album that I had sold 15 years earlier for a dollar 500 miles away.  I bought it for 50 cents.  Still have it.

Brad: shit

Chandler: can you say that on line?

Brad: oh yeah you can say many a thing

Brad: No one said it was a family site

Chandler: my fave:  I hate saying "fuck" around "K-I-D-S."

Brad: Must be your southern heritage....What do you like saying round them?

Chandler: hey you little bratt - go get me a beer

Brad: what kinda beer is your fave?

Chandler: in the hot sun - I like the pale wattery ones - ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon (in the south), Olympia(in the north west), Rolling Rock (in the north east) Miller High Life in the midwest.  Also on a long night of drinking I like those because they don't get you drunk too fast.  On cold damp nights I drink well... whiskey... sometime I like the thick ones like hermans or even some NW Micro brew - only in the NW are the Micro brews not yuppie Pond Scum

Brad: Chris, you got any questions for me?

Chandler: just what is it you are doing for the department of defence and why

Brad: I am really not sure yet.   I go there Monday night and assume I won't be told anything til Tuesday.  I suspect that I will be in there to try work with the maintenance supervisors to basically see if they have too many supervisors or something like that-  I could be way off though.   Believe me they are not letting me do anything militarily and I would not want to.  I think it has something to do with the white collar part of the military.

Brad: or aircarft carrier

Brad: Any other Questions for me?

Chandler: so you are not going to have your finger on the nuclear trigger?  why do you host this site?

Brad: If they give me the trigger i would shit my pants.   I host the site for fun.  I didn't really think there was one site with a lot of info about antifolk. There probably still isn't but my site is getting there, Antifolk.net is growing and there are a couple of Zines in NYC for antifolk.  I do it for fun though-  I get to talk to people whose music I honestly enjoy and hopefully some people are finding new music based on my site.   who knows.

Chandler: do you have a favorite artist

Brad: sure do

Chandler: that is too weird - i have no faves, no least faves not pro or anti - hey wait a second... what makes some one antifolk?

Brad: Giant Sand is my favorite band I have like 30 Cds of theirs.  But I guess that as a solo artist, I would have to say Roger Manning is my favorite.  Mostly due to the three proper Cds and the Lefty Bootleggs and demos which are some of my favorites to listen to.  

Brad: I am not sure what makes someone antifolk-   I tend to think of it now like an anti-lable

Brad: label

Chandler: so what makes one Auntie-Folk?  is there and Uncle Folk?

Chandler: I like to think of individual lables - does not seem to happen as much any more - ya know - because something is on a lable you will likley enjoy it.  I also like to think of collectives - there is a group of women call themselves "little red hens"  they all help each other get gigs - housing promo - all over the country - they have a site - I loke all the artists.  I like the concept even more - would be nice if "anti folk" became more along those lines.  Hell, I am quick to at least point someone in the direction af a gig in a particular area of the country.  the more we help each other the quicker we will defeat the clear channells and Major lables etc.


Brad: Allright Chris-   Folk you!   What the folk did i
just say?

Brad: lets do a fast 5 and call it an interview

Brad: what is scarrier-   Cockroaches, spiders, scorpians, or snakes?


Chandler: snakes - they can kill you

Brad: In your opinion what would Adam Brodsky rather have in his car-  An under-aged Hooker or a dog?

Chandler: a dog really - but he would later tell you about the underage hooker

Brad: I know you don't like Best/worst questions, but as a history buff who do you think our best and worst presidents were?

Chandler: Abraham Lincoln no question.  Toss up Ulysess S
Grant, Ronald Reagan, Calvin Cooloidge, Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, jeeze that's a tough one - Richard Nixon... the list goes on

Brad: Will there be a world series this year?
Chandler: Atlanta and Oakland - both teams have A's on their hat

Chandler: don't get me started about the strike

Brad: That is what I was doin

Brad: will the strike take out the world series?

Chandler: wait - i am answereing

Chandler: With the question posed as it is you HAVE to side with the players - the problem is the way the question is posed.  Yes thier should be salary caps - not just on the players - on the owners too - anything over that should be divided evenly amongst the teams to provide health care for the stadium employees "Get YOUR COLD BEER."  and to pay the sweat shop workers who make the uniforms - PRO sports is reprhensable that way.  Perhaps it is a pipe dream on my part... Chuck Brodsky (not adam) should have put a song about where the uniforms come from on his baseball album... anywho... yea they (in my opinon) will work out this luxuary tax thang - but the will not address the real questions - foot ball is a bit better - but they have the ethics of a tobacco company

Brad: Last one-    drum roll please

Chandler: im rolling

Brad: bald or shaved?  

Chandler: I do not pluck my eybrows

Brad: Hey thanks for doin this thingee,   I should be able to have it up either Tonight or tommorow,

Chandler: thanks for asking - see you soon - I have a gig on an aircraft carrier in NC - perhaps I'll see you there

Brad: I will be in Va

Brad: unless I quit or they fire me first

Chandler: whats a few states between ocean liners

Brad: true that!

Chandler: see ya out

Brad: what is the differece tween Ocean Liners and eye liners>?

Chandler: I dunno - they both turn the sailors on.

Brad: you got it!   see ya

Chandler: out

by Brad Willis, Anti-Folk On line

updated: 12 years ago