From The Desk Of Brother JT: Stephen David Heitkotter’s “Heitkotter”

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: The ability of music to dictate or compliment mood might be its greatest asset. Just as the right soundtrack can enhance a movie, the right music for whatever context you find yourself in can deepen your experience or take you somewhere else entirely. It can even commiserate when the chips are down, like a drinking buddy who elbows you, sliding the bottle in your direction, muttering, “A little hair of the dog?”

When wallowing in some existential despair—you know, once or twice a month—I’ll pull out Stephen David Heitkotter‘s sole recorded effort, Heitkotter, and let it sop up my doldrums like a big, dirty sponge. Informally recorded in 1971 under somewhat mysterious circumstances, it was pressed into a few acetates that somehow survived the initial total indifference of the universe to become a highly regarded relic of DIY recording and out-rock sludge in the form of an official release as Black Orckid on the Now-Again label.

The first song I heard, “Fly Over The Moon,” is 13 minutes long, but despite its ‘luded-out pace, at no time did I get bored. Initially it would seem to be a misbegotten jam session by several messed-up individuals who can barely play their instruments. In fact, it’s not really ineptitude: Both guitarist and drummer have chops, but it’s the attitude of obliviousness driving their playing that makes this fascinating listening. No one is trying make a statement, least of all Heitkotter vocally; mush-mouthed and barely coherent, his words ooze out like pancake syrup on a cold day. They are just letting the langorous grooves pour out of their respective instruments with zero regard for convention or intention.

I was tempted several times to just stop listening, but something would come up—an incongruous drum rave-up, a synapse-short-circuiting guitar run—that made me want to hear more. The willful avoidance of standard rock moves carries through to all five tracks and pulls the curious listener in, like seeing something inexplicably mysterious and wanting to figure it out. But that’s not going to happen. The fog surrounding the intent of these recordings is impenetrable. It’s best to let it roll over you and just stop thinking all together.

Now you might listen to Black Orckid and say, “Jeez, my high-school buddies and I would get wasted and play stuff like this. It’s just pointless noodling. Collectors got a hold of it, and everyone thinks it’s brilliant, but the emperor’s got no clothes.” In response, I’d say, “Yes, I agree, this emperor is definitely naked. And he looks good that way.”

From The Desk Of Brother JT: “A Field In England”

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: “Warning: This film contains flashing images and stroboscopic sequences” read the disclaimer at the beginning of A Field In England. I smiled inwardly and thought, “This is my kind of flick.” There’s something about skillfully employed avant-garde editing that pushes several buttons in the old pleasure-center control room for me.

The film opens on what appear to be roadies for Hawkwind circa 1974 decked out as bedraggled British soldiers from the 1600s who find themselves a hedgerow too far in this grimly engaging, B&W yarn.

Separated from a battle, our heroes discover sustenance in the titular field by means of the endless supply of, uh, mushrooms there. Needless to say, they are not your average, garden variety strain. In but the tapping of a tinker’s mallet, the bleary lads are pulling a rogue wizard out of the ground with a rope (when not posing eerily for imaginary symbolist paintings).

The wizard in question, O’Neil, charges the milquetoast of the group, Whitehead, with finding a “treasure” in the field; the latter’s slow-motion, spell-bound emergence from O’Neil’s tent is a peak of high weirdness not usually scaled these days. A lot of digging, billowing black suns and copious fungus munching follows, culminating in Whitehead’s frantic vision quest, a tour de force of witchy, seizure-inducing edits that nicely conjures the spirit of the psychedelic experience on a truly visceral level. I give it four gnarly stems up.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: Chris DiPinto (DiPinto Guitars And Creem Circus)

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: Chris DiPinto, now in his late 40s, has crafted a stellar life out of the stuff teenage dreams are made from.

On the rent-paying side of things, the Philadelphia native’s name is on some of the coolest, most in-demand guitars in the world. What started as an effort to invent the kind of instruments he wanted to play but couldn’t find turned into a business opportunity when local musicians began to ask DiPinto to duplicate his unique creations for a price. Word spread fast. Since opening shop in 1995, his customers have included the likes of Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Jack White, David Bowie, Los Straitjackets, Dick Dale, even Conan O’Brien. It’s not hard to understand the appeal of DiPinto axes like the Belvedere or Galaxie; they look all sparkly and retro-futurist, with lots of knobs and buttons and pick-ups, like the way-out ’60s Japanese models you might have encountered in pawn shops. They’re the kind of guitar teens scrawl drawings of on book covers while daydreaming about rock stardom during study hall.

So it figures that DiPinto’s other labor of love is bringing back old-school showmanship to rock via his band, Creem Circus. Taking its name from two of the glossier rock mags of the 1970s, CC draws musical and visual inspiration from the glam era they documented. That means platform shoes, satin bellbottoms and groove-heavy anthems like “Teenage Rules” and “Riff Mountain.” The normally soft-spoken DiPinto becomes a strutting guitar hero onstage, showing off impressive chops while finding any available structure to climb onto. Indeed, the whole band gives it up like every show is a packed house at the Rainbow, because that’s how the bands that inspired them as kids would roll: Take no prisoners. Creem Circus, like DiPinto Guitars, is a reminder of the teenage fantasy version of what rock ‘n’ roll was all about. And what it can still be.

From The Desk Of Brother JT: “Baskin”

For a good stretch during the late ’80s/early ’90s, the John Terlesky-fronted, garage-rocking Original Sins were poised to be one of indie rock’s next big things. Despite a string of excellent LPs, that never happened for the pride of Bethlehem, Pa., who disbanded in 1999. Prior to the breakup, Terlesky started releasing more experimental records as Brother JT, and they, too, have been stellar. JT keeps his winning streak alive with the new Tornado Juice (Thrill Jockey), produced by Ray Ketchem (Luna, Okkervil River), who also manned the boards for 1996 Original Sins classic Bethlehem. The good Brother will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, tornado juice not included.

JT: Most “horror” movies leave me cold. Maybe because the intention is often merely a short-term shock or scare rather than an experience that haunts long after the credits roll. Baskin (Turkish for a “violent downward blow”) is different.

The 2015 film relies more on understatement than bludgeoning (though there is some of that, too) to suck the viewer in. Employing dream sequence, flashback and a time loop to good effect, first-time feature director Can Evnerol tells the ill-fated story of a group of Turkish police who respond to the wrong call.

The first half is a slow burn, establishing a relationship between the youngest of the cops and a kind of father-figure superior, while turning up the creep-o-meter by means of hooded figures, tainted meat and frogs—plenty of frogs. After a brief moment of comic relief (the chief freestyle rapping to a Turkish pop song playing in the van; my favorite scene), the surly crew blunder into a distress call they’re woefully unprepared for.

Even in the midst of what are essentially torture scenes, Baskin defies convention. The main figure of evil is a truly unique looking and acting individual (first-time actor Mehmet Cerrahoglu) whose voice never rises above a soothing whisper, dispensing new age-y advice to “stop worshipping power and unite with us,” even as he performs the most unspeakable acts on his victims. While the ending has been criticized as “ridiculous,” I actually found it poetic. In fact, it’s not a bad way to describe the sensibility of the whole film.

From The Desk Of Amy Rigby: “Halsey Street” By Naima Coster

Amy Rigby is back with The Old Guys (Southern Domestic), her first solo album since 2005’s Little Fugitive. A veteran of NYC bands Last Roundup in the ’80s and the Shams in the ’90s, Rigby recorded the 12-track The Old Guys with husband and musical partner Wreckless Eric in upstate New York, where the couple resides. Not only is Rigby currently on tour in support of her new LP, she’s also guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Rigby: I read all the time, so my favorite book is always the one I happen to be on at the moment. Right now, it’s this novel set in Brooklyn and the Dominican Republic (with a little Pittsburgh thrown in) about daughters and mothers, and race, and how neighborhoods change and how people stay set in their ways but can still change. It’s a deceptively easy read that weaves together family history and the effects of gentrification on the main character, a young artist and substitute teacher who’s trying to figure out who she wants to be outside of her complicated relationships with her parents, where they come from and where she comes from. This is Naima Coster’s first novel, and I think it’s masterful. It makes me want to write more and read more.

From The Desk Of Amy Rigby: Warren Zevon

Amy Rigby is back with The Old Guys (Southern Domestic), her first solo album since 2005’s Little Fugitive. A veteran of NYC bands Last Roundup in the ’80s and the Shams in the ’90s, Rigby recorded the 12-track The Old Guys with husband and musical partner Wreckless Eric in upstate New York, where the couple resides. Not only is Rigby currently on tour in support of her new LP, she’s also guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Rigby: I opened a bunch of shows for Warren Zevon in the late ’90s/early 2000s. I’d heard he was a handful and difficult, so I was scared to meet him the first night at First Avenue in Minneapolis, but he was really nice to me. He dressed in low-key-but-classy gray clothes, worried about his hair and was in a quiet phase: dating a schoolteacher, bragging about his kids. It was fun playing for his audience, a rowdy bunch who liked beer but also words, so they liked me.

Warren would listen to my set each night and tell me, “You did good.” It meant so much because I thought he was absolutely brilliant out there by himself, pounding his piano or standing up fingerpicking the acoustic. He was just releasing a new album, Life’ll Kill Ya, and it was a great set of songs that talked about death and getting older. When I broke a string at the Irving Plaza show in New York, the big one for me cause it was where I lived, he strolled out onstage and handed me his acoustic. “Easy,” he said in my ear, in that husky, scary voice of his. “Take it easy.” I still choke up when I hear songs from that album. Like pretty much everybody I looked up to who’s gone, I’m older now than he was then.

From The Desk Of Amy Rigby: The Highwaymen

Amy Rigby is back with The Old Guys (Southern Domestic), her first solo album since 2005’s Little Fugitive. A veteran of NYC bands Last Roundup in the ’80s and the Shams in the ’90s, Rigby recorded the 12-track The Old Guys with husband and musical partner Wreckless Eric in upstate New York, where the couple resides. Not only is Rigby currently on tour in support of her new LP, she’s also guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Rigby: “Wait,” said my husband Eric, who spent the late ’80s through the ’90s living in the French countryside. “You’re telling me that Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash were all in a group together?”

“Yes,” I nodded vigorously, but suddenly it seemed so incredible that that much greatness had co-existed onstage and record, I began to doubt myself. “They wore these long coats and stood in a line … ” I trailed off, thinking I better find an example to show him (and myself) to prove it had really happened.

Then we watched about 20 different versions of the Highwaymen—Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash—live, singing a cosmic Jimmy Webb song called “Highwayman.”

Yes, there was a time when giants roamed the earth. Together. (Reminder to go see Willie or Kris if they come anywhere near.)

From The Desk Of Amy Rigby: Kreuz Market Texas BBQ

Amy Rigby is back with The Old Guys (Southern Domestic), her first solo album since 2005’s Little Fugitive. A veteran of NYC bands Last Roundup in the ’80s and the Shams in the ’90s, Rigby recorded the 12-track The Old Guys with husband and musical partner Wreckless Eric in upstate New York, where the couple resides. Not only is Rigby currently on tour in support of her new LP, she’s also guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Rigby: I discovered barbecue around the same time I got into country music and Southern writers. Some of the gospel of the South—Flannery O’Connor, Loretta Lynn and George Jones, the Carter Family and barbecue—was brought to New York City by a wave of Southern art students I met back in New York’s East Village in the early 1980s. Barbecue was like this secret religion passed around by word of mouth and essential written guides like Road Food. Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo were early BBQ aficianados, and I remember pulling over to a phone booth somewhere in South Carolina to call them for directions to a place they’d mentioned. It seemed almost more important than finding the venue for that night’s show!

The first time I tasted ribs at Payne’s of Memphis, I was so excited to share the bounty I packed up a slab in a Fed Ex box and shipped them back home to New York. (I may or may not have remembered dry ice; either way, it was a disaster.) Since those days, I’ve eaten BBQ all over this country, and while I hate to choose a favorite, I am partial to Texas brisket and the unique bite of hot links. If you’re ever traveling between Austin and San Antonio, follow the scent of smoke to Kreuz’s. If you can’t get there, order some to have shipped to you. Thermal dry ice is standard these days.

From The Desk Of Amy Rigby: “Still Crazy”

Amy Rigby is back with The Old Guys (Southern Domestic), her first solo album since 2005’s Little Fugitive. A veteran of NYC bands Last Roundup in the ’80s and the Shams in the ’90s, Rigby recorded the 12-track The Old Guys with husband and musical partner Wreckless Eric in upstate New York, where the couple resides. Not only is Rigby currently on tour in support of her new LP, she’s also guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Rigby: We were watching the signs go by: Antwerp, Leuven, Amsterdam, Groningen. Felt like we’d been on the road for weeks. My husband Eric asked if I was hungry. I turned to answer him, expecting to see him gripping a steering wheel. Which would have been odd, because we were sitting on the couch, watching Still Crazy, a film about a group of aging rockers who reform and tour the dumps of Europe. It wasn’t the first time we’d watched the movie.

“Look at us,” I said. “We can’t stop touring. When we’re not out there, we watch other people doing it. We could be watching The Man Who Would Be King instead.”

“Is that really much different?” Eric asked.

Still Crazy is an essential film for anybody who plays in a band or goes out to see bands play. We all get older eventually, even people who stake their lives on the music of youthful rebellion, and this movie addresses that reality better than any I can think of. Released in 1998 (what was it about the late ’90s that made true sincerity and lack of cynicism still possible?), Still Crazy stars a talented bunch you’ll recognize from other roles: Stephen Rea, Bill Nighy (whose brilliant frontman was later reanimated in Love Actually), Timothy Spall, singer Jimmy Nail, Bruce Robinson (writer and director of Withnail And I).

The music by Mick Jones (Foreigner) and Chris Difford (Squeeze) pulls off the strange feat of feeling both dated and timeless, just like Strange Fruit, the band at the heart of the movie. Watch it once and you’ll come back to it any time you want to smell stale beer and feel hard-earned applause blow back what’s left of your hair.

From The Desk Of Amy Rigby: “Happiness Is A Choice You Make: Lessons From A Year Among The Oldest Old” By John Leland

Amy Rigby is back with The Old Guys (Southern Domestic), her first solo album since 2005’s Little Fugitive. A veteran of NYC bands Last Roundup in the ’80s and the Shams in the ’90s, Rigby recorded the 12-track The Old Guys with husband and musical partner Wreckless Eric in upstate New York, where the couple resides. Not only is Rigby currently on tour in support of her new LP, she’s also guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Rigby: I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s based on one of my favorite recent features in the New York Times where music and culture writer John Leland wrote a series of profiles of residents of the city aged 85 and older, then kept up with his subjects for a few years. These weren’t grim caricatures but just the day-to-day realities of a diverse group—what they struggled with and what kept them going. I especially looked forward to reading the segments on filmmaker Jonas Mekas, who is still involved in projects, still making art and running around the city into his mid-90s, beginning last year with a poem he wrote for the annual New Year’s Day marathon poetry reading at St. Marks Church. Just like the Raincoats sang “No one teaches you how to live,” nobody teaches you how to get old, and as friends my own age drop and my dad hits his 90s, I find myself looking around for examples of what an acceptable elderhood looks like so I can work toward it. Even the title of this book contains an encouraging bit of the wisdom of age.