Since 1968 Chain have been the defining link in Australia’s ever evolving Blues scene. Known for their ramblin’, deep-rooted harmonica soaked compositions, witty lyricism, and distinctively gritty vocals, they’ve influenced generations of Blues lovers in Aus and abroad. Ultra Underground sat down with front-man Matt Taylor, and guitar slingin’ Phil Manning to discuss all things Aussie Blues; why they love it so much, and where they think the genre’s heading.
UU: You guys formed in 1968, how does it feel to be playing in 2016, and still have people singing along, eager to hear you play?
Matt: Well, it’s great. We were a good little band then and it shows ya what a good little band it was, that all these years later we’re onto the kids of the original followers.
Phil: We get alot of young people saying “I grew up listening to your music cause of my mum and dad, or worse still, my grandfather and grandmother” We get the lot!
UU: You’ve got a pretty extensive discography – do you have a favourite song to perform?
Matt: You see, it’s like watermelon – when you’re eating the watermelon you can’t believe there’s a better fruit until you’re eating a mango, so whichever one we’re doing, that’s the one that pounds.
UU: What’re your thoughts on the current Aussie blues scene?
Matt: Obviously we want someone to take our place *laughs*. We play Australian Blues, we do a little bit of other people’s Blues but we do it our own way. We would like more and more Aussies playing Aussie Blues and telling their story, the American story’s wonderful but they play it better. The Australian story? Well that’s our job. It’s what we tell. There are lots of good players. Ash Grunwald, Lloyd Spiegel, Jeff Hutcherson, and Chris Finnen who’s around our age but not too many people recognise him for how damn good he is.
Phil: Then there’s Fiona Boyd, and people like Jeff Lang, he got his first break playing with Matt in one of the Chain line-ups.
UU: Do you have any plans for new music?
Matt: Every new song is new music! When you’re a musician what you should do is get deep into yourself. I’d tell a young musician for two years copy everything that you love, then spend the rest of your life forgettin’ it, and replacing everything that you copied with something that is purely you.
UU: What is it about the Blues that has hit you, and stuck with you?
Phil: For me it’s the really raw Blues, like raw Chicago or raw Country Blues… something about it’s sound just set me off!
UU: Was it any particular artist?
Phil: All of the artists within the American Blues scene, and British Blues scene – That’s one of the beautiful things about it, you can’t really not do it in your own style. You could learn every BB King lick there is, and make a living off them as musicians do, but at the end of the day there’s only one BB King, so you have to try to be yourself, and in that way you develop your own way of going about it.
UU: That’s some great advice. What makes you guys happy?
Matt: Well my whole life is playing music, even when I’m at home I still play everyday, still write songs. And I’m probably at my happiest when I’ve just written a song, and I think ‘whoa, that is good! That one nails just what I was thinking’ that really does it. I’ve often said if someone had a Ferrari and I was just finishing off a song, and they said “you can have my Ferrari for an hour to race around in or finish off your song” I’d finish off my song *laughs* that gives me more pleasure than anything else.
Peace, love, and keep singin’ the Blues,