'Chain' might be older now, but they can still bring it 52 years later

The Aussie music industry, while a diverse and exciting hub of creative production, has an unarguably rapid self-replenishment cycle. 

Bands come and go and there are few that have lasted the brutal test of time, one of which are blues pioneers, Chain. 

Having celebrated their 50th anniversary last year, the Aussie four-piece are teaming up to bring their signature sound to The Yarraville Club on Saturday March 9. When asked about the secret behind the band’s solidity, founding member and guitarist Phil Manning explores – and occasionally laments – the changes experienced by both the veteran members and the music industry.

“In recent years, we don’t tour as much and we just get together to do short runs. This is quite nice, because I don’t think I’d want to be on the road for twelve weeks at this stage. 

“The band’s evolved like everything else. When I first started playing as a professional musician, which was 52 years ago, there was no alcohol at gigs. You could get a coke or a milkshake. 

“Within a few years, we saw the whole pub rock thing happen – and then the poker machines came, and really threw the live music industry under the bus. That’s only recently fixed itself. I supposed because we’ve been around for this period of time, we’ve seen these changes and somehow managed to adapt.”

One of Chain’s defining characteristics, beside their meaty fusion of guitar, harmonica and searing vocals, is the chemistry that is shared between each member every time they step onstage. Though they’ve had over half a century to hone this skill, Manning explains that it was always a strength.

“A lot of the chemistry side of it started very early on, because we just lived and breathed music back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Some of us lived together, so we’d get together to play at midday and practice all afternoon, and then go to a gig, and then come back after the gig, smoke a couple of joints and play some more.

“We just played constantly, and as a result we got to know each others’ quirks and how to fit together, and most importantly how to respond to each other onstage.”

Manning himself comes from a lineage of musicians, which goes some way to explaining his wealth of knowledge, his vast connections, and his (for lack of a better word) innocent love of jamming. Namely, his grandfather, Lou Coventry, was a member of the Latrobe Federal Band for the better part of a century, as a brass musician who specialised in the cornet.

“He was in the band for 20 years, and then he became the leader for 46 years, and then he semi-retired and became the band leader emeritus, so like an advisor. He was in the one band for 76 years,” laughs Manning. It seems unbelievable tenures is in his blood.

Nowadays, Manning attempts to spend at least a few hours writing or playing his guitar, whether that be for his own solo project, for Chain, or simply for the love of the craft.

“I’ve got a habit of leaving my little studio at the end of the day, sitting down with a Coopers and playing guitar. I don’t think of it as practice, I just think of it as having fun.”

Manning brings this unadulterated enthusiasm for the time-resistant blues-rock straight into whatever show or project Chain engages with, which may be a new album that Manning believes they are “well overdue to create”. Having organised only three upcoming shows in Victoria, Manning promises that the boys will stick with the only setting Chain has.

“Chain have got one setting: that’s ‘go for it’. We laugh about it, because we’re getting old now and once we’ve done a few gigs, it takes it right out of us. But we’re not compromising anything; it’s going to be the classic Chain that people know, and have known for years.”

Chain come to The Yarraville Club on Saturday March 9. Head to the venue website for tickets.