ED- The Eerie Digest is once again expanding our interviews into other fields of entertainment. We’d like to present recording artist Joseph Chandler to all of our readers. Joseph, tell us about your early interest in music.
JC-Well, like most people, I had a small radio as a kid. That was when I lived in Ocean Beach, Calif. I listened to music all the time in my room and preferred it over television it was a kind of escape for me as a troubled child in a broken home. Once I got familiar with all the popular songs and artists, I started buying their records with what money I could earn. I came home from school one day and my sister and her friends were rocking out to Elton John’s, ‘Yellow Brick Road’ album. I played that record all the time. We had an old upright piano sitting in the living room that no one played and I started plunking out the music to ‘Benny and the Jets’ by ear. I didn’t know how to play the piano, as I’d never touched a piano. I searched for the notes and my hands just automatically found what to play. I think after about a week, I had most of the music to ‘Benny and the Jets’ down. Then, I started learning the music to ” Saturday Nights All Right for Fighting’. So, I mastered these 2 songs and surprised everyone one night, by calling my Mom and sister into the living room and showing what I had learned. I played and sang the songs almost identical to the record and their mouths just dropped! I taught myself by listening to the record over and over. In six months time, I knew every song on the record. After that my mom bought me my own piano covered in mirrors and put it in my room and said go baby go!
ED- What was your greatest influence during this time ?
JC- I would have to say, first off, Elton John and his music. This is what led me to the keyboard or piano. By the way, I ended up owning every record of Elton John’s; all the way up to ‘Captain Fantastic’. I learned every one of the hits of all of those records and taught myself to sing them. In my late teen years, I had a short, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Supertramp fascination. This started drawing me towards an edgier kind of rock music. Then of course, here comes ‘Journey’. It was the early ‘Journey’ with Neil Schon and Greg Rolie, that totally captured me! When ‘Journey’ finally came out with the ‘Infinity’ album introducing Steve Perry, I pretty much listened to Journey,survivor and Supertramp and some of the other ‘Journey’ albums that followed, the rest of my teen years and into my twenties.
JC- The piano and fender Rhodes keyboard in those days around 1978. I had tried guitar but could not get the fingers to stretch to the frets…
ED- Tell us about your experience in the San Diego competition that you won for second place for ‘Best Original Competition’ at this early age.
JC- About 6 months into my piano playing and educating myself without a teacher, my Mom agreed that she could only afford a limited amount of lessons. Every Wednesday afternoon she would take me over to the teacher’s home for about an hour’s worth of lessons and there I started to learn what the notes on the piano were called and basic music theory. Several months into my lessons, my teacher noticed that sight reading music was starting to make me mechanical and calculated in my playing. She pulled my Mom aside and I remember hearing my teacher tell her, “Your son has a gift for being able to play by ear, so I think basic music theory and chord structure would be best for now. Let him play the music as he hears it and feels it.” At this time we were each given an assignment in the class of about 20 students . These students had been playing for 2 years and were definitely above me in skill level. We were allowed to choose our own song for the competition recital. My choice was ‘Don’t let the sun go down’ by Elton John. I sang it as well. Somehow my teacher gave me 2nd place at the recital based on my limited knowledge of the piano weighed against the skill level that I performed at. I learned every note in the song by plunking out the notes on the piano and playing them over and over. I realized that God had definitely given me a gift and it was His ability working within me.
ED- In your Sophomore year in High School you formed your first rock band, ‘Titanic’ .Please tell us all about this.
JC- When I entered High School, one of my electives was music. I explained to the music teacher that I played the piano mostly by ear and learned chord structure and theory, but that I probably wouldn’t be able to learn a typical marching band song by reading the notes. My teacher, Mr. Green, fascinated with my God given gift, agreed for me to learn and perform a song of my own choice each semester for my grade. My first song I performed in this class was ‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I also elected to sing it and my teacher agreed. This was probably my second audience besides the piano recital. Each semester, I received nothing more than an A+ through the favor of this teacher and he was probably the one who encouraged me to go on with my talent. ( It was quite a unique situation. My teacher would put me in a small practice room away from the rest of the class with a piano. I would sit in that room and play song after song of my choice and teach myself even more on the piano. Every day a crowd would gather outside the door. You could see all of their little faces looking inside the window rocking out to the music.) It wasn’t long before people starting showing up with acoustic, or electric guitars with a small amp and my little practice room turned into a band rehearsal room. The teacher agreed to let us continue, as long as we kept the noise down. Thus, I started forming the band, ‘Titanic’. The lead guitarist, Marc Estes, who’s now a Pastor in Oregon and myself, were the leaders of the band. Eventually we moved the practice to his house and in no time at all we were playing at our school functions, roller rinks and any place in the county that would let us in for a buck. Our songs were a mix of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Tubes, Bad Company, Van Halen, Tom Petty and all of that classic rock stuff.
ED- Tell us about your departure from this group and what led you to take up an entirely new genre of music.
JC- In my Junior year, I dropped out of school and got a day job and did music with ‘Titanic’ at night. Although I was really having a good time rocking out with ‘Titanic’, the long nights of drugs and alcohol were taking a toll on me after about a year. On one night, during a break in our band rehearsal, I walked outside to cool off and stared up at the stars and just felt a supernatural pull telling me that my life was empty and what I was doing was worthless. I don’t remember if I was sober or not, but I walked back in to the band practice and told them that I was done. I said our next gig will be my last and they will need to find a new singer and keyboard player. Of course everyone was irate and disappointed at me. But nothing could change my mind. I began my journey of trying to find out what life was about and who God was and what He wanted from me. I knew God existed because when I was about 5 years old, I saw 6 or 7 angels surrounding me one day as I was playing alone in a garden. They were all staring at me like they knew something and it completely terrified me as a kid. I was feeling empty from a life of drug addiction and fast living. I wanted my music to have more purpose. I was led to the Lord by a Baptist Preacher on the front steps of a church one Sunday morning in Placerville, California. As he led me through the sinner’s prayer, I felt a total sense of relief from my guilt and shame accumulated through the years. I knew it was God; I could feel it. The Pastor asked if I would stand up in front of the church and tell everyone what had happened. I told him I’d be more than happy to. I had attended this church a few times on Christmas and Easter with my friend’s family. With a new purpose and reason for living, I wanted to sing about Jesus and the goodness of God.
ED- You then joined the group, ‘Waddington family’, as a keyboardist and solo vocalist. Let our readers know about this group and your experience with them.
JC- After my conversion, I went back to my ex-band mates with ‘Titanic’ to try and convince them to follow. They were nowhere near ready. They said that christianity might be fine for me, but not for them; except for one, the lead guitarist Marc Estes. His parents were Christian and they were now asking me to work on his salvation. So, I invited him to church. Several years later he converted by showing up to church and soon ignited for God. He became one of the country’s most popular youth Pastor’s in Oregon and has written several books. I spent the next couple of years learning to write my own music and basking myself in the contemporary Christian music of the day, which was Chuck Gerard and ‘Love Song’. Andre Crouch, Dallas Holm and the like. Their music started influencing me and I began performing their songs in churches all over California as a special guest artist. People and Pastor’s alike noticed there was something ‘special and moving’ in my voice and songs. One day, my Pastor pulled me aside after church, and counseled me with these words, ‘You’re kind of an ‘Outlaw’ for the Lord, and you’ll only be able to play Christian Music. The Lord has put a gift in you, and you must fulfill your destiny by changing people’s lives with your voice and songs.’ I attended a country Gospel concert one night, and loved the group so much they asked me to finish the tour with them as a keyboardist and solo vocalist, because they had just lost their keyboard player. Even though country music was a new thing for me, I was chomping at the bit to tour the country and loved the look of the 2 beautiful busses/motor homes they traveled in. The bands name was the ‘Waddington family’. Touring the United States with the Waddington’s was my first taste of real touring. We performed at churches, six nights a week and traveled out of 2 converted greyhound busses. I continued with the ‘Waddington’s’ for about a year and a half and parted trails and went back to writing my own music.
ED- At age twenty-four you formed another Heavy Metal Band, ‘Stronghold’ and within a year changed the venue of your music again. What was the story behind this ?
JC- I was having a hard time taming my own original music down to a church acceptable format. All I could come up with were fast paced, metal type songs that were very unpopular at that time in most churches, even though the band, ‘Petra’ and others were starting to pave the way. I decided to give secular music another try to meet my financial needs. I called my old high school friend, Wayne Rice, who was a talented bass player and Ron Robinson, lead guitarist who now plays for ‘Sonic Flood’ as a fill in. I asked them if they’d be interested in forming a rock/’Journey’ sounding all original group with me. We then formed the band, ‘Stronghold’ which lasted only a short while. By this time, I had also been deeply influenced by Steve Perry and the band, ‘Journey.’ So my music was becoming a mix of ‘Journey’, ‘Elton John’ and ‘Andre Crouch’. I realized I could only justify playing and singing in a band for God’s glory now and would never be able to tour secular music again.
ED- You later pitched music for secular and religious bands, and even tried to break into film-scores. What was your experience with these efforts ?
JC- In 1989, I had contracted with a music publisher, ‘The Ferrin Music Group.’ They started helping me pitch my songs to artists that were looking for fill in songs or record labels that wanted to catalog them. I was pitching songs and trying to get my foot in the door with bands like: Bon Jovi, Madonna, Survivor and basically any label that would consider buying my tunes and then using them. I even got a meeting arranged with Lou Diamond Phillips to discuss writing a film-score for a possible, Morgan Creek productions, ‘Young Guns Three-the final chapter’ movie staring Emilio Esteves as ‘Brushy’ Bill Roberts. I also was handing Lou a script outline for my idea for a 3rd movie. I gave him a real hooky, rock western kind of song called ‘The Outlaw’ and he loved it. He said he would see what he could do and be in contact with my agent. Unfortunately, Morgan Creek productions said they just didn’t think the film would sell and do very well. That was the end of that. After that, I wrote some music for computer video games and children’s stories and found I was getting way off track from where I really wanted to be. So, I had a lot of close calls, but no cigars!
ED- You were asked to write five songs for the group, ‘Journey’, but after a life threatening head injury , caused by a car accident, you were un-able to do so. What happened after this.
JC- Almost a decade went by where all I did was write songs and store them away on cassett tapes in my library for that someday debut album. I spent most of my time playing at churches and test driving my new songs in front of congregations with great results for giving glory to God, for changing my life and seeing salvations along the way at the altar at my concerts. During that time period, I was using a lead guitarist friend of mine from Lake Tahoe, California. His name is Russ Cootey, who’s now a rising Producer and writer in Hollywood. In 1995, I looked up an old acquaintance of my former bass player, Wayne Rice. His name is Scott Teaguarden and he owned his own publishing company, called Ace-In-The Hole Publishing. He had done studio work with ‘Journey’ on their album, ‘Raised on Radio’. Scott said to me, ‘Your music sounds so much like ‘Journey’ already, that I’d like you to write 5 songs to pitch to the band to go on their final reunion album, ‘Trial by Fire’ and I will do my best to submit them. Even though ‘Journey’ wasn’t in the practice of using other people’s songs, he knew Steve Perry was open to outside ideas. I wrote 5 songs and called it the ‘Golden Girl’ project, but was not able to fulfill the request because of a life threatening head injury sustained in a car accident one day. In the late 1990’s, I was hit by a drunk driver and sustained a concussion, that after a year, developed into a terminal form of meningitis that was decaying my nervous system and eventually would kill me. I was experiencing grand mal seizures, palsy and sores all over my body. By the time, the Golden Girl songs were recorded, the Journey band was already mixing and music was the last thing on my mind as I was fighting for my life.
ED- What are the latest projects that you are working on now, and what are your plans for the future ?
JC- Well, my latest project is a result of what happened after the car accident. I was seeking healing and medical care all over the country, my only hope was prayer and a God who could heal. Through much prayer and the laying on of hands one night, I was miraculously healed. The weeks following, my symptoms, sores, palsy, and seizures, completely disappeared. Unexplainable by Doctors, I was told I had a new lease on life and I would ‘treasure’ this second chance for the rest of my life. Now with a new outlook on such simple things like being able to play a piano, or walk without pain, my music took on a whole new realm of excitement and gratitude. I developed what many describe as a (cry) in my voice, hauntingly resembling Steve Perry of Journey. The Lord spoke to me one night, ‘You finish the songs’, ‘You sing the songs’ and you take the ‘Journey’ sound to the Christian rock arena . Then, I completed my first debut album entitled, ‘Love Again’. These are songs about my life. It’s kind of like a biography set to music. Each song tells a story about a place I’ve been or something I’ve learned along life’s journey. I felt like I had a God inspired idea years ago to bring the sound of Steve Perry and ‘Journey’, into the Christian rock venue. My music is a mixture of my own style, a taste of Elton , Journey and a hint of Yanni. I wanted to saturate the recording with rich vocal harmonies, soaring guitar solo’s, and a tasteful, melodic lead vocal. I spent months in the studio, laying all the tracks down, because of my perfectionism. Most of the parts on the album including lead guitars, keyboards, strings, and even some drum parts, I arranged and wrote, with a little help from Ralph Stover, the Co-Producer and Engineer. The CD is also interactive, which is something new to me. This was Robert Rosario’s idea at Artists Interactive. The CD is a musical CD, but also can be placed in your computer to see video’s, interview’s and a photo gallery. My desire is to tour the music all over the world with what some people are calling, ‘a sound within a sound’ or miracle music. I’ve just assembled a new tour band for ‘Love Again’ and in the process of recording a 2nd CD, which many of the band members are helping me write. Your readers can pick up a copy of ‘Love Again’ at www.josephchandlermusic.com
ED- Joseph, we wish you much luck for all your future efforts and want to thank you for letting us interview you. Please keep in contact with us and keep us up to date in all that you do.