AH, MAN: A career-spanning conversation with JACK ROSE by Brian Rademaekers (from Arthur No. 33)

As published in Arthur No. 33 (Jan 2013)

AH, MAN
A career-spanning conversation with JACK ROSE, American musician, recorded just a few months before he died in 2009
By Brian Rademaekers

When I started covering music in Philadelphia in 2007, my beat—the city’s crumbling post-industrial river wards—felt like a veritable nexus of weird folk and psychedelic experimentation. The Espers clan and their compound, Fern Knight, Fursaxa, and heavy-hitters like Bardo Pond were all there, churning out a storm of beautiful, strange music that seemed in part a product of the ancient, twisted alleyways of Fishtown and Kensington.

Here, Jack Rose was the benevolent, unassuming King—a master set apart from his peers by a massive presence and an indomitable, mystical talent that elevated him from mere musician to magician. He was a dark alchemist, transforming calloused flesh, polished wood and taut steel into the intoxicating, intricate worlds of sound that were his music. Not that Jack — Jack the giant, hulking Virginian — would ever presume to wear a crown; it was just something that he brought into the room with him, disarming all with a humble warmth offset by a blunt, caustic confidence that he wielded like a knife at just the right moments. These days, most of the musicians from that scene are gone from the neighborhood, though none as gone as Jack.

When I first heard Jack’s 2005 album Kensington Blues, I was thunderstruck, lost in awe that such a masterpiece not only existed, but that it was made in my time, by a man whose elbows polished the same bar counters as mine. Listening to Jack’s recordings was great [see sidebar for a complete discography] but best of all was seeing Jack live, spreading his gospel in church halls or little clubs or living rooms and, finally, along the banks of the Delaware River for a summer concert series shortly before he died.

Watching him amble up to his chair with guitar in hand signaled the start of near-religious experience. He would hunch over the instrument, cock his head to the side and, with closed eyes, unleash wild syncopated layers of rhythms, leaving listeners rapt in a sort of devastated trance. Here was this giant bearded man suddenly becoming seamlessly enmeshed in his guitar to create these idiosyncratic spells that were at once as delicate as flowers and as forceful as hurricanes. Seeing that miracle in the flesh, there was nothing else like it in the world. For me, it was like being a jazz freak in the ’40s and living down the street from Charlie Parker.

So began a years-long obsession. I felt compelled to document this genius quietly living in our midst. And Jack obliged. It never seemed to bother him that some reporter from a little local paper was always pestering him, asking for details about a show or politely begging for an advance copy of a record. In that way, Jack betrayed the appearance of a dominating, cocksure master and revealed a man with a very big heart.

My pretext for interviewing Jack in the summer of 2009 was his forthcoming long-player on Thrill Jockey, Luck in the Valley. Jack was elated. He and his wife, Laurie, had just bought a tidy little brick rowhouse a few blocks from the city’s blasted Port Richmond waterfront. He bragged about his new car, a Honda that he loved for its efficiency in carrying his guitars from gig to gig. He raved about a pizza joint he’d found down the street, about how quiet his block was. To him, the Thrill Jockey release was the milestone he’d been awaiting, a culmination of years of hard work and mastery that meant he could finally say he was making good bread on the merit of his music.

For three hours, he let me follow him around the house, tape recorder in tow, as he smoked and poured tea and pulled LPs from his wall of records. He was a man satisfied, a musician reveling in the feeling that his art was finally about to find the place in the world that it deserved.

When Jack died a few months later, I groped through the shock, looking for some way to respond to the ugly, gaping hole that had so suddenly appeared, and decided on transcribing the whole of our conversation from that summer day on Ontario Street. That tape is presented here, and captures Jack in a bright mood at the peak of his career, ruminating on everything from his first lessons to his labor on “Kensington Blues” to the joy of landing the Thrill Jockey deal.
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BULL TONGUE review column by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore (Arthur 33/Jan 2013)

Originally published in Arthur No. 33 (Jan 2013)


BULL TONGUE
by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore

- Exploring the voids of all known undergrounds since 2002 -

1 CLAUDE PELIEU It has been ten years since the French-born artist, writer, and translator Claude Pelieu died at his home in upstate New York. His memory has been well served this past year, by the publication of at least three books that should be of extreme interest to anyone with a true hankering for the avant garde. The first is Kali Yug Express (Bottle of Smoke Press, bospress.net), a fantastic cut-up novel originally published in France in 1974. Translated by Pelieu’s late widow and long-time partner-in-crime, Mary Beach, it’s great to finally have a chance to read this book in a language we completely understand. As with some of his other work, Pelieu’s cut-ups do not always flow with the same dream-logic that guides Burroughs’ hand when he’s navigating similar waters, but it reads quite well. And Bill Roberts’ production standards are as high as ever. Second up is Un Amour de Beatnik (Non Lieu, editionsnonlieu.fr), a collection of letters and poems sent to Pelieu’s first wife (Lula Nash) in 1963-64, along with examples of his visual work from the early ‘60s. Although it’s all in French, the book is written in a relatively straightforward way, so you can parse it out even if yr French is as rusty as ours. Fully annotated, with period photos, a good chronology and whatnot, it’s a very solid read (and Claude’s early Leger-influenced paintings are quite a revelation). Third is Pelieu Mix/Etat des Lieux (la Notonecte, 15 bis rue Noel du Fail, Rennes, 35000, France), assembled by Benoit Delaune. Pelieu Mix is mostly a facsimile edition of some of Pelieu’s notebooks from the late ‘90s, filled with various texts, collages. It’s a great, beautiful jumble of stuff, presented spiral-bound, and now that we’re examining it more closely we realize it may have come out a while ago. But we just got it, so fuck you. More info on Pelieu and his art (as well as Mary Beach’s) can be had at beachpelieuart.com. Worth whatever eye strain it takes.

2 SPECTRE FOLK Spectre Folk is Pete Nolan’s long-running non-Magik Markers combo. And their new album, The Ancient Storm (Vampire Blues, vampireblues.net), is a quartet scene, with Pete joined by Aaron Mullan, Steve Shelley and Peter Meehan. Dreamier, poppier and ghostlier than previous efforts, it is tempting to call this the best record with a world class foodie (Meehan) since Robert Sietsema’s last recording with Blinding Headache. The longer tracks have a splendid psych droopiness and the whole thing just flows like butter. Meanwhile, Nolan’s label, Arbitrary Signs (arbitrarysigns.blogspot.com, has continued to flower slowly. Most recent drop was Your First Ever River by United Waters. UW is the new solo (or solo-esque) project by Brian Sullivan from Mouthus. The guy’s a brutal arm-wrestler (take our word!), but he also shows an incredible deftness with deeply murky pop constructions on River. Even more than with Brian’s other project, Eskimo King, the sounds here are bizarre but assembled with a precision recalling some of the best efforts of the long-gone Bobby J label. It’s a record that rewards heavy, smoked listening. Don’t think we ever mentioned the last record on Arbitrary Signs either, which was Four Corners Bounce by Devin, Gary & Ross. The surnames invovled are Flynn, Panter & Goldstein, so you can be assured this project is also a riot of screwed-up ‘60s pop readymades, interspersed with doper madness and actual songs that will twist yr mind like taffy. Don’t not check it out.

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ARTHUR’S FIRST ISSUE IN FOUR YEARS OUT NOW

ArthurCvr33Pre

Arthur No. 33 (Jan 2013)
Sixteen 15″ x 22.75″ pages (8 color, 8 b/w)
$5
Published Dec. 22, 2012

“The new oversized print-only issue of Arthur Magazine is even more gorgeous and satisfying than expected. Like a Sunday supplement for heads.” — Jesse Jarnow, author of Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock

“Beautiful” — Chris Richards, The Washington Post

“A coffee-table newspaper, printed on 16 immense pages of newsprint with minimal ads, and almost every inch covered with words or pictures… The cover, a gigantic piece by surreal comics artist Rick Veitch, is gorgeous, and the crispness and clarity of the print is perhaps the best I’ve seen in a newspaper. Everything in the new [issue] is worth absorbing… Opening the mammoth pages of the new Arthur feels much like unfolding a road map, one that points to strange, unfamiliar worlds.” — Ned Lannamann, The Portland Mercury

“The Haydukes of music/art/culture journalism return…welcome back!” — Team Love Records

After a four-year sabbatical, occasionally beloved revolutionary sweetheart Arthur returns to print, renewed, refreshed, reinvigorated and in a bold new format: pages as tall and wide as a daily newspaper on compostable newsprint, with ads only on the back cover(s). Amazing!

In partnership with Portland, Oregon’s Floating World Comics, Arthur’s gang of idiots, know-it-alls and village explainers are back, edited by ol’ fool Jay Babcock and art directed by Yasmin Khan.

This issue’s contents include…

Dream a Deeper Dream: A how-to conversation with cartoonist ROARIN’ RICK VEITCH by Jay Babcock. Plus “Cartographer of the American Dreamtime,” an appreciation of Rick Veitch and his work by Mr. Alan Moore. Mr. Veitch’s “Self-Portrait in Six Dimensions” graces our cover.

JACK ROSE: the definitive, career-spanning interview with this late great America guitarist, conducted by Brian Rademaekers just months before his death three years ago. Plus: Jack Rose discography compiled by Byron Coley, and an illustration of a classic Jack pose by Plastic Crimewave.

An illuminating/endarkening conversation with sparkling Luciferian artist FRANK HAINES by Eliza Swann

Stewart Voegtlin on WAYLON JENNINGS’ dark dream, with an illustration by Beaver

Columnist DAVE REEVES on Burroughs, bath salts and border guards, with an illustration by Arik Roper

Columnist NANCE KLEHM on new modes of exchange—and homemade smokes, with an illustration by Kira Mardikes

Cartoonist GABBY SCHULZ explores our interstate nightmare

The Center for Tactical Magic on “The Magic(k) of Money” — and how YOU can win $1000 for planning a BANK ROBBERY!

“Bull Tongue” columnists BYRON COLEY & THURSTON MOORE survey happenings in underground culture, paying special attention to new and archival releases from Claude Pelieu; Spectre Folk; United Waters; Devin, Gary & Ross; Jess Franco; Mick Farren; Chris D.; Donna Lethal; Crystal Siphon; Mad River; Horace; Erewhon Calling by Bruce Russell; Toy Love; The Clean; David Kilgour; The Heavy Eights; Chris Corsano; Joe McPhee; Rangda; Ben Chasny; Sir Richard Bishop; David Oliphant; Brothers Unconnected; 200 Years; Six Organs of Admittance; Gary Panter; Marcia Bassett & Samara Lubelski; Cheater Slicks; Ron House; Above Ground; Vacuum; Max Block; Dead C; Axemen; Hamish Kilgour; Circle Pit; Kitchen’s Floor; Bits of Shit; and Boomgates. Plus a special report on The Ex 33 festival at Cafe Oto in East London, featuring The Ex, John Butcher, Zea + Charles, Jackadaw With Crowbar, Mats Gustafsson, Ken Vandermark, Trash Kit, Steve Beresford, Wolter Weirbos, Valentina Campora, Gabriella Maiorino, Andy Moor, Yannis Kyriakides, Anne-James Chaton, Ad Baars, Jorge Vega, Ian Saboya, Enrique Vega, Tony Buck and Roy Paci.

Please keep in mind… Arthur is no longer distributed for free anywhere. Those days are (sadly) long gone, ladies! Now you gotta buy Arthur or you won’t see it. Our price: Five bucks pretty cheap!

ORDER NOW: CLICK HERE

CISNEROS, DUDES

Al Cisneros of Om (and Sleep, and Shrinebuilder) put so much work into this compilation — curating and carefully sequencing a wide-ranging selection of tracks, going over the mix and master four times to make sure it was perfect — for so few people to know about it. Chalk it up to unfortunate timing (2009 was a very rough year). We have a couple hundred copies left of the first (and only) printing. Cover artwork by longtime Cisneros collaborator and Arthur contributor/ally Arik Roper. $8 US. Track listing and order info:
http://bit.ly/GZukmf