Mic Check: concert promoter Chris Chandler remakes a ‘60s classic

Atlanta concert promoter Chris Chandler is edging into another side of the music industry with the January release of "Slow Peel," a re-creation of The Velvet Underground's 1967 debut. Photo: 
Mary Chandler
Atlanta concert promoter Chris Chandler is edging into another side of the music industry with the January release of "Slow Peel," a re-creation of The Velvet Underground's 1967 debut. Photo: Mary Chandler

Musician friends helped him record “Slow Peel,” a recreation of The Velvet Underground debut.

Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our feature, Mic Check.

For nearly 20 years, Chris Chandler has been in the background of the music industry. His affection for music — particularly underground bands from the 1980s — led him to start promoting shows at several Atlanta venues, including The Earl and Eddie’s Attic.

Because of Chandler’s determination, fellow fans of artists such as The Long Ryders, The Effigies, Rain Parade, The Dream Syndicate, Midge Ure and The Bongos were able to relish live productions in Atlanta, and through the years, Chandler has remained friendly with many of the musicians.

Shortly after bringing The Bongos to The Earl in February and the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, Chandler shifted course. He took real estate classes through Berkshire Hathaway and is now working out of their Midtown office as an agent.

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But something else happened last summer. Chandler realized his own musical abilities, and along with Atlanta producer/musician Jonny Daly, decided to recreate The Velvet Underground’s heralded 1967 debut, “The Velvet Underground & Nico.”

From July through September, Chandler — a novice musician who is singing for the first time on the record — and Daly recruited musicians and recorded the recently released homage, “Slow Peel.”

Shane Pringle, co-owner of The Earl, appears on the album, as do Richard Barone of The Bongos, Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate and longtime sideman player Chris Cacavas, among many others who Chandler termed his musical Mercenaries.

Q: Was this album planned before the pandemic?

A: Not at all. My wife bought me a guitar a year ago, February, for my birthday. I played as a teenager and always loved music but got tired of practicing. It was the best gift ever. I took lessons at School of Rock in Buckhead and the guy said, “You have a decent voice,” so I got a little confidence and posted a few songs on Facebook. Jonny Daly has a studio in his house, and he’d asked me to help him out with something and after that, he said, “Since you helped me, let’s do an album together.” My joy has always been bringing music to people, so (recording) wasn’t something I’d really thought about. I can’t remember how we picked (the Velvet Underground) to cover except that Lou Reed’s range is in my range. Johnny said, “I’ll put the backing tracks together, and you find the players.” A couple of people weren’t able to do it, but everyone who did it was remote.

Atlanta concert promoter Chris Chandler recently released "Slow Peel," an homage to The Velvet Underground's 1967 debut.
Atlanta concert promoter Chris Chandler recently released "Slow Peel," an homage to The Velvet Underground's 1967 debut.

Q: Tell me about the album cover.

A: We decided against the banana (the iconic image on The Velvet Underground debut). The woman peeling her shirt off is kind of provocative, and it’s a nod to the first album cover, but not a copy.

Q: You have quite an array of musicians playing as your band, the Mercenaries.

A: I looked through my friends on Facebook to see who the Velvet Underground fans were. We have Alex McGill on drums; Sheila Doyle on violin; Michael Lorant on drums; Robert Lee on guitar. Shane (Pringle) does the sax on “Run Run Run.”

Q: And this goes to show the value of long-term relationships.

A: Pete McDade I’ve known from Uncle Green. Lee Kennedy was my roommate in the ’90s, so yeah, it’s all come back. I think it has to do with friendships and how you treated people from bands. It came full circle. This has all been a mind-blowing blur.

Q: I guess you also needed a Nico if you were covering The Velvet Underground.

A: I had two Nicos. (K) Michelle (DuBois), I’ve always loved her voice, and I loved her solo albums in addition to her work with Ultrababyfat and Luigi. She said yes right away and sent me her vocals with no music, and I was teary-eyed. Steve Wynn laid this searing guitar over “All Tomorrow’s Parties” (which she sings). Halley O’Malley is the other Nico. She has this cool, husky voice, and you can hear her on “Femme Fatale.”

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Q: Did doing the album change your feelings about The Velvet Underground in any pronounced way?

A: I guess it makes me respect them even more. One of the main things to get out of it was I was able to get in touch with (original VU drummer) Moe Tucker; she lives in Douglas. She really liked the songs and told me to send a copy of the album to her and (VU bassist/singer) John Cale.

Q: What other music have you been listening to?

A: It seems to happen in bad times that good music comes out. Steve Kilbey from The Church released “Eleven Women,” which he wrote in seven days. That’s my favorite one from the (past) year. The Dream Syndicate was one of the top albums of this year for me (“The Universe Inside”). Also, this cat from the ’70s Cleveland scene, Peter Laughner (Rocket From the Tombs, Pere Ubu). I try to listen to as much new stuff as I can on SiriusXM.

Q: Now that the album is recorded and here, how do you feel about how it all came together?

A: None of this would have happened without Jonny Daly. But yeah, when 2020 started, I never thought a 52-year-old man would be singing about sadomasochism and heroin!

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