As a 'Chain Collector" myself, I'm always impressed by the dedication of the other ones I've come in contact with over the years.
Brett Valego is no exception, he has one of the best Chain of Strength collections out there which encompasses vinyl, merch and show memorabilia. So, here is his story on collecting one of the most iconic hardcore bands of our time.
How did you get into record collecting?
Going to shows. The only way to get music from many bands, aside from a demo, was getting a 7 inch/12 inch. I started buying records from bands I went to see. This was the mid-'90s, Very and Victory Records had a huge distro catalog. I would order shirts and records from them.
I’m not sure if Revelation had a distro at that point but I remember getting shirts and records of Rev bands directly from them too.
Fun Fact, I believe my first actual record was a 7” for the movie La Bamba in 1987.
How did you first hear Chain of Strength and why did they make such an impact on you? Also, what was your first Chain purchase?
I think I first heard them on a college radio station. My friend (shout out to Chris Dooley) had a radio show and I would tape it. True Till Death was on the tape. I remember I had no idea who it was at first but I loved it.
My first Chain purchase had to be the CD from Revelation. I got that at the same time as the longsleeve that they still sell I think they made such an Impact on me because of how powerful the songs are.
"True Till Death" is such a simple song musically, and as a 14 or 15-year-old kid, the lyrics hit hard: “To you it was just music, but to us it was so much more” is so true even now at 41 years old.
Chain had a way of making the most simple parts really sound big and hit you. The pick slide into ringing out E minor chord for "Just How Much," the stop/starts in "Through These
Eyes"; it all caught my attention. [Chris] Bratton’s drumming is so powerful and the guitars feel like a wall of sound: powerful and melodic.
To this day when I hear the bass intro to "Impact," I still get psyched.
Side note: the first time I saw Chain was at Rev25 in NYC. I distinctly remember being front and center and thinking, “Holy shit! I’m actually seeing Chain and they’re playing "Impact."
Do you collect all Chain vinyl variants?
Absolutely! (except the 12 inch, I have a copy of it but to me it "doesn’t count").
What is your favorite Chain release to collect?
It would have to be What Holds Us Apart. True Till Death is a perfect record, musically and aesthetically, green vinyl, clear vinyl, green sleeve, silver sleeve…but there are so many different variants of What Holds Us Apart to find!
What is the story behind the Confusion sleeve press?
No one knows. I’ve asked the band members and even they have no clue.
Do you have any good stories about obtaining a "Chain Crew"?
I got my first one at a Mouthpiece show from Tim McMahon. I told him I’d do 50 stage dives during their set. Stage was super low and super slippery so that didn’t work out too well.
I am forever grateful to Tim’s Chain generosity so I still owe them about 45 stage dives!
Did you have a hard time finding a True Till Death Silver sleeve? Why do you think there are there so few that come up for sale or trade?
I saved extra cash (literally, in an envelope on a shelf), for probably two years specifically to buy a silver sleeve when I had the chance. I waited about another year before I heard a friend had one that he’d be into trading. I used some of the money I had saved to purchase a record that he would trade for the silver sleeve and the deal was done!
I think they’re hard to come by because supposedly most of them were never sold and were at Revelation for years.
I have heard there aren’t any left in the vault but I can’t confirm that. Plus, people who have them don’t seem to want to get rid of them. I don’t blame them!
What are your thoughts on the upcoming discography reissue on Revelation that Ryan Hoffman mentioned on a few podcasts recently? Do you think there will be some additional material included? Will they go back to the original True Till Death mix?
I’m interested to see how it’s going to come out. Knowing their attention to detail I anticipate it being awesome. I’m pretty sure it will have the original mixes of the 7 inches, or else what would be the point, considering the 12 inch is still in print. I hope it will come with a big booklet of photos and some stories or commentary from each band member.
As for additional material, I’m pretty sure there aren’t any other songs recorded. From what I know, the new songs they had before they broke up were only ever recorded at practice, I think without vocals.
Maybe we can talk them into going into the studio to give those songs a proper recording for this release!
What Holds Us Apart is a crazy one to collect if you're a Chain variant collector, what's your favorite version and why?
I think it would have to be Chain Crew. It has a different layout than every other variant, only 100 made with the numbered insert and explanation behind it and the cool Chain stationary!
Do you own any Chain tests and if so, any stories about obtaining it?
Unfortunately, I don’t. Those are my last missing pieces in the world of Chain 7 inches I’ve seen pictures and know people who have a True Till Death test, seen a picture of a rejected press What Holds Us Apart/Chain Crew test but have never even heard of anyone having a Foundation Records What Holds Us Apart test.
Do you collect Chain merch besides the vinyl? Tell us about your collection of shirts, flyers, etc?
Oh yeah, I love Chain shirts and posters! I have about 20 different shirt designs. There are so many different variations of the classic shirt with the Chain X of Strength logo on the front and the different designs that were done for the back. Even subtle differences like the Rev star on the back, there are variations with one star, two stars or even no Rev logo at all.
My favorite has to be the "has the edge gone dull" shirt. Chain green is iconic but I do love the blue on white and the design on the back.
For posters, I have a few that were made for their shows on the East Coast in 2014, the What Holds Us Apart poster, the promo poster from Rev for the 12 inch and my favorite I have isn’t actually a poster but a giant print of a photo of Chain at the last show they played in Tampa, Florida in 2018.
It’s a big black & white of the band with Alex front and center catching huge air.
Why do you think Chain of Strength is such an iconic band from the late '80s hardcore scene?
My friend Preston (co-founder of the Instagram whentheresbetrayal) says it best: "Chain is a band with a brand."
Their logo, layouts, and general aesthetic demand attention and capture the energy and style of the early Revelation Records era.
Is there anything from the realm of Chain that you're missing and on your want list currently?
It’d be pretty cool to have a True Till Death test or the super limited (I think less than 10) poster from Rev25
What is something in your collection aside from Chain that might surprise the No Echo crowd?
I’m a huge Pearl Jam fan. They were getting big at the same time that I was discovering rock music. I have a massive collection of Pearl Jam posters, shirts and an almost complete vinyl collection.
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Tagged: record collector