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The Chris Chandler Show

  • The Muse and Whirled Retort 2012

    The Muse and Whirled Retort October 2012

    The Muse and Whirled Retort October 2012
    October 10, 2012

    Dunsmuir, CA
    Vol. XIII issue x

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    Hey Everybody,

    It's That time of the month again.

    I don't usually use this news letter to talk about me - But this month is a little different. Ya see, last year I entered into a contest in Hollywood (really) - The Ameri-Cymru West Coast Eisteddfod. Cymru is Welsh for well.. Welsh.

    And well... I won. I won in both the storytelling and poetry catagories. So, this year I am going to be headlining the event.

    To help promote it - the American-Welsh Society or Ameri-Cymru gave an interview - I thought you would like it.

    Here ya go:
    After winning last year's poetry and story telling competitions at the West Coast Eisteddfod in L.A. Chris Chandler is back for this year's event in Portland and this time he's headlining! Chris will be appearing with Paul Benoit and a full complement of backing musicians. The Chris Chandler show will also feature a "modern minstrel multi-media medicine show... and an acro-balancing troupe"! Portland's very own Kazum will be appearing on stage with Chris. Read on for more details about the show and Chris Chandler's unique blend of music, poetry and story telling. Above tickets!! You can do that here:- West Coast Eisteddfod 2012

    AmeriCymru: You're appearing at this year's West Coast Eisteddfod in Portland, Oregon - this won't be the first time you've been to Portland, will it? You've got a bit of a fan following here?


Chris: Thanks Ceri. I am really looking forward to coming up for the Eisteddfod with Paul Benoit and my partner Jen Delyth. It is going to be a great evening!

I lived in Portland briefly in the early 90s. I was rambling round the country - living in a 1968 Volkswagen Micro Bus - when, as most of my stories start out: "My car broke down." I had the micro bus towed to my friend Daniel's house and we ran an orange extension cord from the house out to the micro bus and I lived in it for about 6 months performing on street corners in the City of Roses.

    Eventually I made enough money to buy a 1976 Chevy LUV. We built a camper on the back of it. We used a domed skylight that we found in a junkyard as the roof. Wow. Those were the days. Over the years I have managed to come through Portland about twice a year - usually around the time of the Oregon Country Faire.

    AmeriCymru: What kind of an audience or community have you found for poets and literary performance in Portland?

    Chris: I have recently had some wonderful shows at the Alberta Rose Theatre. I love Portland - city of strip bars, and peace activists, traffic and environmentalists. Misfits, miscreants, malcontents, and mischief-makers. In short: my family.

    For many years I have been coming up after the Faire - which I started going to in about 96. It's kind of a prom dance for creative drop outs. The folks in the north west have really accepted me - I mean my show is - well how do you put it? Hard to pigeon hole - and as you might guess I have often had a hard time finding work. Ya, know - it's not really folk music - not really poetry - not quite a play - well in Portland none of that seems to matter. It feels like a family gathering - only without the green bean casserole made of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, tinned green beans and those canned French's onion rings.

    AmeriCymru: Have you got anything in mind in particular for this show or anything you'd like to do this trip?

    Chris: I will have a road battered suitcase (literally) full of new videos to concoct the modern minstrel multi-media medicine show. Yes - ,videos - world class americana blues and an acro-balancing troupe that will make you think twice when you go under the big top.

 I am very excited to be working with my long time music partner Paul Benoit - who is an astounding songwriter in his own right - you can check out his work at as well as my longtime friend and former music director Frankie Hernandez, and a whole wagonload of merry-makers including Portland's own Kazum! I'm really looking forward to doing a contemporary take that captures the true Bardic spirit of the Welsh Eisteddfod - in a Portland kinda way!

    AmeriCymru: You competed at last year's West Coast Eisteddfod in LA, how was that?

    Chris: I did!

First let me say that being America's 2011-2012 West Coast Eisteddfod Laureate is a true honor.

my betrothed, is Welsh, and I have long admired the emphasis the Welsh put upon the literary arts. And last year in LA - Hollywood no less! the competition was fierce - some of those folks were truly funny and profound - so I knew I had to bring my best work. I actually hired a coach to help me train for the contest. So I want to thank Nazelah Jeffries of the Oakland Poetry Slam for helping me prepare. Oakland will be hosting the 2014 National Poetry Slam by the way.

    Nazelah helped me with my game plan - I needed it because I knew those LA boys would be hungry - they grew up on one side of the camera or the other - and they are good. In short, I was nervous - which is always good because I am at my most nervous when I am not nervous.

    Stage fright is a good thing - it makes you hyper aware - I won! It really is an honor. I mean the Irish have their music, and the Scots have their Athletics - but the Welsh - they love literature - and the performing arts. I relate to the bardic tradition very much so.

I have the Plaque you presented to me proudly displayed on the wall in the room where I write. The first thing I did when I won was to spend some of that hard earned prize money on rounds of drinks for the other contestants!


AmeriCymru: You've been touring and creating for many years, can you tell us a bit about the history and development of your work?

Chris: I went to college to study - of all things stage lighting. I have always been on or around the stage - ever since my oldest brother dragged me - as a small child - to audition as his high school's mascot - the Clarkston Angoras. I am too young to remember, but I am told that I wowed the crowd by standing front in center and picking my nose and then jumping off the stage. I won the contest but was deemed to be too young to fulfill my mascot duties... but I digress.

    In college I started writing plays and going out on street corners in Winston Salem, North Carolina to try out monologues - well needless to say - people thought I was crazy. So I bought a guitar in a second hand shop - now, granted I could not PLAY the guitar - so I just strummed on it while I told monologues - well, that made me a folk singer.

When I graduated (North Carolina School of the Arts) I went out auditioning for work as a lighting designer and funded my trip by playing guitar on street corners - I actually landed a job as a designer on Broadway. So it seemed I was going to have to give up the road. But I wanted to have one last hurrah at an event called "The People's Music Network". As fate would have it, my name got drawn from a lottery, to play a song in the main show with Pete Seeger! I played a song called "Watergate Generation". I got a standing ovation, and an encore. It was an amazing experience. Pete Seeger - who had always been (and still is!) a hero of mine - came back stage and encouraged me not to take that job on Broadway, but to keep playing folk music.

Much to the chagrin of my family, I continued to play music on the subways of New York.

    After about 6 months of living on the road, I got on one of those trains and wound up in Boston - which is where I really learned how to turn the show into a performance - because Harvard Square (at least at that time) was the mecca of street performing in America - mimes, jugglers, magicians and dancers - oh my!

But I was not one to settle for long, and the highways took me back south to spend time in New Orleans, then Victoria, British Columbia, Austin Texas, Atlanta Georgia, Pitsburgh Pensylvannia, Washington D.C. and yes, Portland, Oregon. I feel like a Johnny Cash song "I've been everywhere...."


Along the way I started getting booked in clubs like CBGB, and and Festivals like The Winnipeg Folk Festival, High Sierra Music Festival and the Kerrville Folk Festival. I did two Lollapalooza Tours - the first one playing on the second stage just before Cyprus Hill - talk about a modern minstrel show - Chris Chandler singing "Republican Woodstock" followed by Cypress Hill Singing "Insane in the Membrane."

    Not to mention the Red Hot Chili Peppers and of course Janes Addiction.

    In Boston one night, my friend Rae-Linda Woad suggested that I set down the guitar. I did so and it changed my life.

    At the time my partner Amanda Stark (who lives in Portland now by the way) played guitar and sang beautifully. We traveled quite a bit calling ourselves Stark Raving Chandler. I remember we had been riding down the road singing songs, reading the newspaper aloud to each other and novels - Woody Guthrie Songs, The Grapes of Wrath, and the Dallas Morning News - the roads, the songs, the stories, the News all melted together into a collage. That night we put that collage on stage. Up until that moment, it had been a disinterested audience - but that collage turned the night around - and my process of creating has never been the same.

    AmeriCymru: You've performed with Paul Benoit in the past, how did your collaboration evolve and are the two of you working on anything currently? 

    Chris: I have know Pauli for a long time - we met at the High Sierra Music Festival. He was playing in a band called Hanuman. Man, those guys had this groovy complex sophisticated back beat. It was all instrumental. Sometimes my friend - drummer Jarod Kaplan - would invite me to sit in and read poetry on top. It was cool. When Benoit heard I was looking for a music partner the foolish man volunteered. I drove from Baltimore Maryland to Seattle to rehearse with him. He's that good.


His records are sublimely understated - he's easy to work with, a terrific band leaded world class musician and one of the best song writers I personally know. Our collaboration seems effortless, and he knows how to travel. Home is where the toothbrush is!

    AmeriCymru: Can you tell us about other performers you've worked with?

    Chris: I am lucky to have crossed paths with some of the greatest minds of my generation.

I was honored to be asked to fill out a bill one night in New York as a tribute to Abby Hoffman - with Allan Ginsberg and William Kunstler. I have opened for all kinds of folks including Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Utah Philips, Arlo Guthrie, Leo Kotae and Mojo Nixon.

    Folk Festivals are the best because you find yourself in these magnificent round robins. As a spoken word artist - I am kind of an odd ball - so they will put me onstage with - I dunno the nose flute player and the mime.

Once I did a round robin with Dan Bern, Joey Shit-Head from DOA playing acoustic punk- folk and John Doe from X Playing Country Acoustic. But other times ya might find yourself with The Austin Lounge Lizards and Ani Di Franco. Seriously.


Often at music festivals people ask me to come on stage with them and sit in during their show. It used to happen so often that I put an album out in the late 90s called "Collaborations" with a different artist accompanying me on each track. Peter Yarrow (of Peter Paul and Mary) Dan Bern, Dar Williams, Martin Sexton and Ellis Paul to name a few.

    But more importantly than the "Famous"(or at least people you have heard of) are the ones that are far more important - I have been lucky enough to know and hang out with and do late night mind bending song swaps with some of the greatest songwriters you've never heard of. People like Danny Dollinger:

    "If I had a dollar and if I had a quarter I would buy for you a bottle of the very best malt Liquor. A big old forty ouncer with a note that needs and answer - look me in the eyes and tell me how can you say no to love."

    And do look me in the eye and tell me you don't love that lyric.

    Lots of folks like the late great AL Grierson, and Anne Feeney who I was lucky enough to tour with for 5 years:

    "Have you been to jail for Justice? I want to shake your hand. Sitting in or laying down are ways to take a stand Have you sung a song for freedom Or marched that picket line? Have you been to jail for justice? Then you're a friend of mine."


... and these are friends of mine.

    I've been so lucky that way. Brian QTN, Myshkin, David Rovics, Mike West and Peter Wilde, Darleen Soverign, Jason Ecklund and Steve Clark. Not exactly household names but they should be.

    I have been very fortunate to work with some of the best artists I can think of. The most important is Phil Rockstroh. Rockstroh was my mentor in the early days. He is a truly great writer with keen insight. We collaborated on material together for more than a decade. He is a full time blogger these days - read him - he's easy to find.


All the bands that I have had back me up have been like the dream of a demented marionette. Anne Feeney remains my heroine. We played together for 5 years as the Flying Poetry Circus - David Rovics, Samantha Parton (Be Good Tanyas) and Oliver Steck - we called ourselves Avoiding Godot. Next came The Convenience Store Troubadours with Frankie Hernandez and probably the best singer I have ever heard - let alone worked with Laura Freeman. I already told you about Stark Raving Chandler. There was Liberace Hootenanny and The Unwilling Disciples and Over the Counter Culture.

    Yes, I have worked with some terrific musicians to travel the thin highways of fat america, bringing music, theatre and spoken word to the tiny taverns, picketline demonstrations, and plush theatres, from Bangor, Maine to San Ysadiro, California.

    AmeriCymru: Do you have a particular process or pattern to writing? Can you tell us how you work out a performance piece?

    Chris: Yea, I just open up the package. add beer. and shake.

    AmeriCymru: What's next for Chris Chandler?


Chris: I am working on a show of crossover Celtic material. Perhaps talking about the immigrant experience. The story in my family is that we came here before the American revolution - by boat - Chandlers were the candle makers - from Wales to Savannah Georgia, which was a debtor colony. Many folks made those hard journeys, to drain the swamps of New Orleans. To work the mines of Pennsylvania. To make a new life in a new world. So many stories.

    It is intimidating though.

I go to a lot of Celtic Festivals with my partner Jen Delyth (who is a renowned Celtic artist) - and I get to hear the traditional story tellers - the Shanachies - and these guys are good - they know their material - all 3000 years of it - it makes me nervous. Which should make things interesting.

If I can find the right accompanist with a large Celtic Music repertoire (hint hint) I am excited to break some new ground!

    But you know me - I am a traveling Medicine show. Its what I do - Its all I can do.


AmeriCymru: Is there anywhere, or for any audience, in particular you'd like to perform that you haven't? 

    Chris: Yes, I want to put together a show that can play at fringe festivals. It is a real goal of mine to one day play the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

    Some People wanna play Broadway - some Carnegie Hall.

    Me, I wanna play Edinburgh.


AmeriCymru: Where can people get your work?


Chris: Ceri - the word work makes me tired! Oh, my CDs and DVDs and such... Well if you can remember my name - it's Chris Chandler dot org - because I am an Organizer not a communist. (
I send out a newsletter once a month - called T.H.E. .M.U.S.E.A.N.D. .W.H.I.R.L.E.D. .R.E.T.O.R.T.

I only bug ya once a month and I very rarely talk about me - I write a new piece and send it out each month as well as my dates - what cities I am coming to.

    AmeriCymru: Any last words for readers of AmeriCymru?

    Chris: Yes, It has been a real honor to be the 2011-2012 West Coast Eisteddfod Laureate.
AmeriCymru is bringing awareness to the contemporary bardic heart of the Welsh culture here in America.

    I have been to Wales a couple of times and enjoyed butty bach beer, my mother in law's lava bread, (accompanied by a Max Boyce session so I'd know the true meaning of a Welsh bard!), and after listening to her collection of old welsh mining songs, I now know where Pete Seeger got his inspiration.

    I'll never hear the "The bells of Rhymney"again the same way.


I am a lucky guy. Mostly because I get to have such a talented artist as a partner. So my last words to AmeriCymru are - if for some reason you are unfamiliar with the mesmerizing artistry of Jen Delyth please treat yourself

    AmeriCymru: Thank you for sitting down with me.

    Chris: Thanks Ceri!


How do you say it? Iechyd da!


Or as we say it in Georgia - here's mud in your eyes

    Interview by Ceri Shaw


    My partner Jen Delyth was asked by the Left Coast Eisteddfod to contribute one of her designs as part of this beautiful hand carved Welsh Love Spoon that David Western and Laura Jenkins have made. She contributed her Celtic Tree of Life design.
    here it is!!

    (To win the the Love spoon, see link below).

    I was asked to contribute a poem centered around the three - and here it is.

    The Spoon of Life

    As you and I water the simple pear tree we have just planted

    I question...

    Who gives life to whom?

    Holding hands beneath her shade
    Our lives entangle
    Our bodies entangle

    Like roots and branches.

    Branches branch skyward
    rewarding the ground with fallen fruit

    Roots root deep
    rewarding the branches with drink.

    each feeds the other as with a spoon.

    The spoon of life.

    You feel my roots beneath you as I sway with your branches

    And I wonder...

    which came first roots or branches?

    Without one there could not be the other.
    Without you there could be no me.


    Feeding each other.

    The spoon of life.

    I am looking for someone in the bay area that plays guitar or piano and sings with a strong Irish or Celtic Repertoire. if that's you get in touch - i can find us some work.

    Our new "Illuminations" are still going strong - combining my background as a lighting designer and her incomparable skills as a visual artist.
    I will be building more very soon!
    Get your orders in quick! The holidays are just up the street.
    The newly reprinted "The United States of Generica" T-Shirts are here!
    After multiple requests I made a fresh batch in Tanks, Long Sleeved Thermals and regular short sleeved.
    Made and Printed in the USA!

    Do you have Matadors?
    Are you a reviewer or a DJ and need a copy of Paul and My's latest CD?
    If you need a promo copy send me an email to
    If ya wanna buy one?

    For the earlier titles go to:
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    Jen Delyth, Paul Benoit, Frankie Hernandez, Jarrod Kapplan, Sean and Lisa Shanahan, Jan Iron Cloud and Laure Tjolker, KVMR, Red-Eye, JC, Kazoom, Tom, Michael and Laura, Tom King, All the folks at The Pour House, Robin Hall
    H.E.R.E.S. .D.A. .D.A.T.E.S.

    Thursday, October 11th, 2012 8 pm
    Mike Myers Presents Chris and Paul with My Father's Ghost!
    Tsunami Books
    2585 Willamette Street 
Eugene, OR 97405
    This will be a terrific event - 2 full bands!

    Saturday, October 13th, 2012 9 pm
    West Coast Eisteddfod
    The Multnomah Arts Center
    7688 Southwest Capitol Highway 
Portland, OR 97219