D E A D V I N Y L

Thursday, February 02, 2006 at 8:36 PM

Chisel / 'Chiefs'

As a teenager, Chisel mystified me. Only somewhat a Jersey band, with Ted being a Leo brother and their records being released by Gern Blandsten, Chisel was a bit larger than life to me. I'm not quite sure why. They played the same hall shows as other bands. Perhaps it was the fact that they were headquartered in Washington, DC. More likely, it was just the fact that they were so damned talented.

I still remember seeing Chisel for the first time. It wasn't live, but rather via a video tape of a hall show they played in Ridgewood. I'd been to other shows in Ridgewood, and it was a near religious experience every time. Always sweaty and cramped, those shows still exemplify for me why the Jersey scene was so amazing. There was such a sense of camaraderie and euphoria and joy. Even through a television screen by way of an 8mm camcorder, the atmosphere came through and Chisel didn't fail to impress.

Obviously, Ted Leo went pretty far in the ensuing decade. After Chisel broke up, one of my bands was lucky enough to play one show -- a festival -- with Ted's first post-Chisel band, The Sin Eaters. That band seemed to have broken up before anyone even had a chance to form an opinion. The next time I saw Ted, he did a solo set at a small hall show in the middle of nowhere in suburban Jersey. As far as I know, it was one of the first solo sets he played. Two interesting things stand out in my mind about that show. One is the fact that I now live a few blocks away from that hall. The other is that Elliot Smith was there, just hanging out.

The last time I saw Ted play solo in person (watching him on Conan O'Brien doesn't count), my band played a live radio show with him at William Paterson University. The show's host wasn't very well prepared (sorry, Derek), so Ted and I had to go DIY, each playing through his guitar amp and singing through mine. I think it worked out pretty well. After his set, we talked for a bit while we dismantled our makeshift PA. I told him I really liked the solo stuff and ventured a Billy Bragg comparison. He said he'd been getting a lot of that, but admitted he wasn't much of a Bragg fan.

Nowadays, Ted Leo is crazy famous and well-respected. He mentions Billy Bragg in interviews somewhat regularly. During the 2004 election, I e-mailed him to see if he minded me posting an MP3 of 'Shake the Sheets' at my political blog on election day as a kick in the ass for my readers. On tour, he text messaged me from his cell to give me the go ahead. Ted Leo has always been as cool as he is talented. It still mystifies me to this day.

Chisel's 'Chiefs' was released on the 1997 Sudden Shame compilation, 'The Storm of the Century'.

Chiefs
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