Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Tim Chandler, 1960-2018

In 1982, midway through my 11th grade, I took a bus to a small music store on the other side of Winnipeg and spent 250 of my favourite dollars on a bass guitar. This purchase was largely motivated by what I'd seen and heard Tim Chandler do with a bass guitar in a church concert in LA in January of that year.

Chandler was the newest member of Daniel Amos, a group I obsessed over. A dishy dude with a Tom Selleck mustache, he was stepping in for DA stalwart Marty Dieckmeyer. Dieckmeyer had laid down the bass foundation for ¡Alarma!, an album I committed to memory — word for word, note for note. During that concert, Chandler proved not only familiar with Dieckmeyer's fundamentally solid bass-line, but keen to inject and resolve points of tension that were uniquely Chandler's own.

This was just the beginning for him. Good rock 'n' roll bass guitarists — think Paul McCartney, John Entwistle, even a meat-and-potatoes bassist like Cliff Williams — play just a whisper ahead of the drummer. Not only that, in many songs they introduce the melody anywhere from a half- to a whole-beat ahead of the rest of the band (listen to Williams on “Hells Bells” for a primary example of this). Chandler had these techniques down, and lots more besides.

Tim Chandler was a vigorous explorer of the pocket, sussing out every possible point of tension and exploiting it with a virtuosity that was wholly unique. On his second album with Daniel Amos — Vox Humana — the decision was made to replace the drummer with a machine, a move that would prompt most bassists to roll their eyes (“Why not just let the synth do me, too? Or the singer? Or everyone?”). Instead Chandler was all over it like a kid locked inside a candy store.

This variety of stylistic virtuosity is enough to send all but the sturdiest drummers screaming (the machine, which was never heard from again, may indeed have suffered a nervous breakdown). Drummers — in fact all band members — appear to have immensely enjoyed working with Chandler. Judging from his Facebook page, Chandler was predominantly a pleasant personality, openly affectionate, with a kid-brother sense of humour that kept the studio and tour van exploits breezy.

Alas for him and the listening world at large, Chandler grew his legs in the most fenced-in ghetto of the music industry imaginable — both from within and without. The groups he played with were not only devoted Christians, they were cussedly committed to exploring genres and styles that ran against the grain of CCM and Christian Rock. “Christian Alternative,” in other words — exceedingly rarefied stuff. If the unwary listener did not approach with an appetite whetted for exactly that, odds were stacked heavily against ever acquiring the taste for it.

In a good and just world Chandler would be an in-demand session bassist, who played with the likes of Brian Wilson and Donald Fagen. Chandler's untimely death at 58 curtails that fantasy with grim finality.

Rest in peace, Tim Chandler.

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