Listen to “Guitar Solos” by Chip Handy and “Halloween” by Chip Handy and Ron Linton.Thanks to Tom Furgas for providing the tapes.
Chip Handy was an improvising guitarist who recorded much of his music at his home studio in Davis, California. He would occasionally collaborate with others and made an appearance on the compilation, “Guitar Solos 3” produced by Fred Frith in 1979.
It appears that very few knew him well although those that did describe him as a quiet and affable guy. His style could be vaguely described as Derek Bailey meets Eugene Chadbourne but when one really listens to his work the music gets hammered, literally, into a very unique territory. Often he wouldn’t even play the strings but hit the body, scrape the neck and bridge and run objects through the strings.
I guess I first heard his music when Tom Furgas sent me The Militant Musicians’ Pond releases back in 1990 or so. Tom and Chip did at least two tapes together and they were forays into percussive guitar and non idiomatic improvising. No melody, no structure but tons of texture and odd, disjointed communication and sound.
Evidently, Arthur Alvin “Chip” Handy was plagued by illness much of his short 47 year life. Below is his obituary taken from his local paper in 2001.
Arthur Alvin “Chip” Handy III died Oct. 21, 2001, at Sutter Davis Hospital after many struggles with long-term illness. He was 47 years old.
He was born Nov. 6, 1953, in Springfield, Mass. He had a bachelor’s degree from Catholic University of America and studied dramatic arts at UC Davis. He had lived in Davis since 1978-79 and drove a taxi for some time.
An experimental musician, he co-founded “The Militant Musician’s Pond,” and was a disc jockey at KDVS for awhile as well. He will be remembered for his beautiful smile and loving spontaneity.
Friends are invited to a memorial service Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 3 p.m. at the K Street Park in Davis.
(Obituary from the “The Davis Enterprise,” October 30, 2001.)
Many thanks to Tom Furgas, Tom Djll, Henry Kaiser, Bret Hart, and Henry Kuntz for their help in this article. The cover drawing of Chip and Tom on “To Be Announced” was drawn by T.G. Welsh.
“Guitar Solos 3” an album put together by Fred Frith on red Records in 1979 featured Chip Handy, Henry Kaiser, Peter Cusack, Fred Frith, Eugene Chadbourne, Davey Williams, Keith Rowe and Akira Iijima.
Working solo on this Militant Musicians’ Pond tape from 1993, Chip Handy credits himself with “sounds”
Chip Handy was a most remarkable improvisor on the guitar; I first heard his music on the compilation album Guitar Solos 2 produced in the late 1970’s by Fred Frith. It was in the early 1990’s that he contacted me and sent me a few tapes of his music. I suggested a mail collaboration, which he readily agreed to, and sent me tapes for that project soon afterward. He and I did two cassette collaborations, Avatar (this was long before the movie of the same name, and has no relation to it) and To Be Announced. I added guitar and (on TBA) synthesizer to the tapes and issued them as duo collaborations with Chip. He and I continued to trade tapes for some time after that. Chip was always very friendly, enthusiastic, and always a topnotch, creative improvisor. All his tapes are absorbing and express the true joy of the freedom of improvised music.
I did have contact with Chip way back in the late 80’s when I was doing writing about the extended techniques and influences of some of my favorite perplexing guitarists, centering on some of the guitarists on SST records at the time(Ginn, Baiza, D. Boone, Lee Ranaldo, Frith/Kaiser, Scott Colby, Zoogz Rift, Glenn Phillips, etc.) and also those who’d appeared on Frith’s ‘guitar solos’ records (Reichel, Chadbourne, Handy, etc.). He sent me a couple of really interesting homemade tapes, said little really, and seemed reclusive – though kind. I haven’t much else to add.
I recently finished John “Drumbo” French’s moving autobiography and have found myself reassessing a lot of how I saw things at points back on the continuum, more forgivingly and lovingly, really.
Sadly, I remember virtually nothing about Chip. Just an extremely damaged person barely hanging on to something — music — to stay alive.
I did one, maybe two sessions, invited out to a studio near I-5, by Doug Carroll. Chip had connections to Birmingham people like Doug. I first heard of Chip through Wally Shoup, who also spent some years in Birmingham (HQ of TransMusEQ, Davey & LaDonna, etc). Probably Davey hipped Fred Frith to Chip’s work which is how he wound up on that Guitar Solos album — does that sound right?
What I do recall is that I saw him play once in a house concert (in Davis?) that now seems like it took place in a far away dream. What he was doing, however, as far as coaxing sounds from little toy-type devices left a strong impression on me…perhaps I was somewhere encouraged to think seriously about using toy instruments. Later I incorporated Mexican toy violins into my own music. I also remember that he had a number of cassettes available of his music, but I never heard any of them.
Wally ( Shoup) reviewed Chip’s cassette “Dawn” in one of the early Improvisor Magazines… it sounded so weird and intriguing from the description I sent off for one, and we commenced trading tapes. Late 1980s, the height of cassette culture. “Dawn” sounds like somebody manically scratch/banging around in their apartment, and occasionally coming around in the room to where the guitar is sitting, and scratching and banging on that for awhile before moving on…
( thanks to Tom Djll for 5 tape covers near the bottom.)