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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SUPPORT: ROBBIE BASHO DOC KICKSTARTER

Trailer…

From http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/326705872/voice-of-the-eagle-the-enigma-of-robbie-basho

Before his bizarre death at the hands of a chiropractor, Robbie Basho was sure that his compositions would not outlast him. Orphaned during infancy, diagnosed with synaesthesia (a union of the senses that caused him to interpret sound as colour) and claiming to be the reincarnation of a 17th century poet – the Baltimore-born guitarist and singer’s musical output was equally as outlandish as his persona.

In his brief and troubled life he laid the foundations for radical changes to the musical landscape of America during the 1960s and 70s but reaped little more than a sparse (if fervent) following during his lifetime.

Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho is a journey into the heart of an artist’s lifelong struggle – designed to illuminate and satiate existing fans while serving as a perfect starting point for the uninitiated.

Featuring interviews with Basho’s former students, contemporaries and few close friends (including Pete Townshend of The Who and William Ackerman); the documentary will integrate new information and anecdotes on Basho with previously uncovered visual material, abstract employment of archive footage and photography of the natural phenomena and landscapes that informed his work.

With the resurgence of interest in Basho growing and a more widespread revival a tangible possibility, it is surely an auspicious time for his unique music and life story to be evoked through documentary.

More: http://www.robbiebashofilm.com/

NOW: ARTHUR NO. 34

A34coversml

ARTHUR NO. 34 / APRIL 2013

Oversized broadsheet newspaper
24 15″ x 22.75″ pages (16 color, 8 b/w)
$5

CLICK HERE TO ORDER DIRECT FROM US

Now with 50% more pages, Arthur continues its comeback in the bold new broadsheet newspaper format that’s turning heads and drawing critical acclaim.

In this issue…

After 20-plus years navigating strange, inspiring trips across myriad underground psychedelic terrains with a host of fellow free folk, righteous musician/head MATT VALENTINE (MV & EE, Tower Recordings, etc) finally spills all possible beans in an unprecedented, career-summarizing, ridiculously footnoted epic interview by BYRON COLEY. Plus: Deep archival photo finds from the MV vaults, a sidebar wander through some important MV listening experiences with your guide Dan Ireton, and a gorgeous cover painting by ARIK ROPER of MV & EE at peace in the cosmic wild. Delicious!

Orange County, California psych rockers FEEDING PEOPLE left the church, entered the void, lost band members and returned to our reality to sing their tale in glorious reverb. Chris Ziegler investigates, with photography by Ward Robinson…

Everyone needs someone to love, and AROMATIC APHRODISIACS are here to help that lovin’ along (sans wack pharma side effects). From truffles to borrachero, author-scholars CHRISTIAN RATSCH and CLAUDIA MULLER-EBELING get in on the action. Illustrations by Kira Mardikes…

Gabe Soria chats with novelist AUSTIN GROSSMAN (Soon I Will Be Invincible) about the basic weirdness of playing (and making) VIDEO GAMES, with art by Ron Rege, Jr….

All-new full-color comics by Lale Westvind, Will Sweeney, Vanessa Davis and Jonny Negron…

Is there a way to examine the nature of existence at its very foundation? Esoteric mapmaker DAVID CHAIM SMITH says yes—but there’s a price. Interview by Jay Babcock…

Stewart Voegtlin on what (or: who) made MELVINS’ 1992 beercrusher Lysol the most unlikely religious record ever built, with art by Stewart’s Chips N Beer mag compatriot Beaver…

“Weedeater” Nance Klehm on BETTER HOME BREWING…

The Center for Tactical Magic on ANARCHO-OCCULTISM…

PLUS! Byron Coley and Thurston Moore’s essential underground review column, Bull Tongue, now expanded to two giant pages. Covered in this issue: New York Art Quartet, Don Cauble, Douglas Blazek, Rick Myers, Desmadrados, Century Plants, Richard Aldrich, Robbie Basho, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Michael Zacchilli, Pat Murano, Tom Carter, Les Conversions, Hobo Sunn, Decimus, Saifyya, Jeff Keen, Inspector 22, Yves/Son/Ace, Pink Priest, Smegma, Nouvelle Impressions D’Afrique, K. Johnson Bair, Major Stars, Endless Boogie, David Novick, Joe Carducci, Scam, Erick Lyle, Phantom Horse, Failing Lights, Tomuntonttu, The Lost Domain, George Laughead jr., Xochi, Sublime Frequencies, Barbara Rubin, Red Rippers, Linda King, Cuntz, My Cat Is An Alien, Bird Build Nests Underground, Pestrepeller, Painting Petals on Planet Ghost, Peter Stampfel, Joshua Burkett, Michael Chapman, L’Oie de Cravan Press, Genvieve Desrosiers, The Residents, Dawn McCarthy, Bonnie Prince Billy, Ensemble Pearl, Azita, Woo, Galactic Zoo Dossier, Mad Music INc., White Limo, Excusamwa, Little Black Egg, Dump, Jarrett Kobek, Felix Kubin, The Army, Bruce Russell, and Gate…

And more stuff too hot to divulge online!

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

CLICK HERE TO ORDER DIRECT FROM US

FEEL FREE TO PRE-ORDER ARTHUR NO. 34 NOW (STREETS MARCH 5, 2013)

A34coversml

ARTHUR NO. 34 / APRIL 2013
Twenty-four 15″ x 22.75″ pages (16 color, 8 b/w)
$5
Streets: March 5, 2013

CLICK HERE FOR THE PRE-ORDER INFO

Now with 50% more pages, Arthur continues its comeback in the bold new broadsheet newspaper format that’s turning heads and drawing critical acclaim.

In this issue…

After 20-plus years navigating strange, inspiring trips across myriad underground psychedelic terrains with a host of fellow free folk, righteous musician/head MATT VALENTINE (MV & EE, Tower Recordings, etc) finally spills all possible beans in an unprecedented, career-summarizing, ridiculously footnoted epic interview by BYRON COLEY. Plus: Deep archival photo finds from the MV vaults, a sidebar wander through some important MV listening experiences with your guide Dan Ireton, and a gorgeous cover painting by ARIK ROPER of MV & EE at peace in the cosmic wild. Delicious!

Also in this issue:

Orange County, California psych rockers FEEDING PEOPLE left the church, entered the void, lost band members and returned to our reality to sing their tale in glorious reverb. Chris Ziegler investigates, with photography by Ward Robinson…

Everyone needs someone to love, and AROMATIC APHRODISIACS are here to help that lovin’ along (sans wack pharma side effects). From truffles to borrachero, author-scholars CHRISTIAN RATSCH and CLAUDIA MULLER-EBELING get in on the action. Illustrations by Kira Mardikes…

Gabe Soria chats with author AUSTIN GROSSMAN (Soon I Will Be Invincible) about the basic weirdness of playing (and making) VIDEO GAMES, with art by Ron Rege, Jr….

All-new full-color comics by Lale Westvind, Will Sweeney, Vanessa Davis and Jonny Negron…

Is there a way to examine the nature of existence at its very foundation? Esoteric mapmaker DAVID CHAIM SMITH say yes—but there’s a price. Interview by Jay Babcock…

Stewart Voegtlin on what (or: who) made MELVINS’ 1992 beercrusher “Lysol” the most unlikely religious record ever built, with art by Stewart’s Chips N Beer mag compatriot Beaver…

“Weedeater” Nance Klehm on BETTER HOME BREWING…

The Center for Tactical Magic on ANARCHO-OCCULTISM…

Byron Coley and Thurston Moore’s essential underground review column, Bull Tongue, now expanded to two giant pages. Covered in this issue: New York Art Quartet, Don Cauble, Douglas Blazek, Rick Myers, Desmadrados, Century Plants, Richard Aldrich, Robbie Basho, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Michael Zacchilli, Pat Murano, Tom Carter, Les Conversions, Hobo Sunn, Decimus, Saifyya, Jeff Keen, Inspector 22, Yves/Son/Ace, Pink Priest, Smegma, Nouvelle Impressions D’Afrique, K. Johnson Blair, Major Stars, Endless Boogie, David Novick, Joe Carducci, Scam, Erick Lyle, Phantom Horse, Failing Lights, Tomuntonttu, The Lost Domain, George Laughead jr., Xochi, Sublime Frequencies, Barbara Rubin, Red Rippers, Linda King, Cuntz, My Cat Is An Alien, Bird Build Nests Underground, Pestrepeller, Painting Petals on Planet Ghost, Peter Stampfel, Joshua Burkett, Michael Chapman, L’Oie de Cravan Press, Genvieve Desrosiers, The Residents, Dawn McCarthy, Bonnie Prince Billy, Ensemble Pearl, Azita, Woo, Galactic Zoo Dossier, Mad Music INc., White Limo, Excusamwa, Little Black Egg, Dump, Jarrett Kobek, Felix Kubin, The Army, Bruce Russell, and Gate…

And more stuff too hot to divulge online!

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

Byron Coley and Thurston Moore’s “Bull Tongue” column from Arthur No. 29 (May 08)

BULL TONGUE by Byron Coley & Thurston Moore
from Arthur Magazine No. 29/May 2008, available from The Arthur Store

Great new LP by Portland’s Jackie O Motherfucker may be our fave of theirs since Flat Fixed. Spaced out jabber and float with casual/urgent female vocals that almost sounds like certain moments of Fuzzhead at their most blues-wailin’est, interspersed with Velvetsy volk moves, and overlaid with swabs of smoke & jibber. The slab is called Valley of Fire (Textile) and it’s a monster. Also out from Jackie O is a sprawling 2 LP set, America Mystica (Dirter Productions), which was recorded in various caverns by the touring version of the band between ’03 and ’05. Not quite as precise as Fire, but its muse is savagely crunchy in spots and never so formal as to appear in a bowtie. It’s an open-ended weasel-breeze you’ll happily sniff in the dark. Is that a hint of Genevieve’s crack?

This young noise dude from Minneapolis named Oskar Brummel who records and performs under the name COOKIE has released his first entry into the new new American underground noise forest and it is frothingly balls-deep: good n’ harsh. It’s a cassette titled Ambien Baby and it flows with both a FTW sexual undertow and a strange-feeling/shit-coming rejoice. There should also be rejoicing over the fact that Times New Viking seem to have made their transition to Matador with their instincts intact. Their new LP, Rip It Off, is as grumbly and fucked sounding as any blast of gas they emanated previously. Nice thick vinyl, too. I guess you need it heavy when the needle’s buried this far into the red. Smooth!

It has taken a little while to actually read the bastards, but now that it’s done, there can be little doubt that Process Books has blasted out three of the best music-related tomes to have been peeped by our tired eyes. First up is the new edition of John Sinclair’s Guitar Army. This is one of the great American underground revolutionary texts—ecstatic, naïve, visionary and powerful. It’s a little funny to glom a few of the embedded old (old) school opinions about what is happening, but it’s still a wonderful read, and a doorway into eternal truths, if you can stay open to its music. The new layout is pretty good. We miss a few visual aspects of the old one (like, where’s the Frantic John flyer?), but the new pics more than make up for it, and the bonus CD—music, interviews, rants, poetry—is fantastic. As is Paul Drummond’s Eye Mind: The Saga of Roky Erickson. We’ve read endlessly about Roky over the last 30 years, but this book is jammed (JAMMED) with new facts, reproductions of fliers, posters, photos and ephemera we never even imagined, and Drummond really covers the subject the way he deserves to be covered. It’s really an overwhelming effort. The same is true of Robert Scotto’s Moondog: The Viking of 6th Avenue. The writing can be a little sere, but the story is juicy enough to mitigate this dryness. We finally get to read the story of how the collaboration album with Julie Andrews came to be. There are meetings with Arturo Toscanini and Edgar Varese. It’s quite a tale, and Scotto has done his homework. The only frustrating note is that there really isn’t a comprehensive straight discography. If there’s a second edition, it would be a welcome addition. Also, while the CD tracks are bitchen—especially the early recordings by (one presumes) Steve Reich—some notation there would be cool, too. Other’n those quibbles, we couldn’t be more celebratory ‘bout popping our corks. Buh!

We reported a while back how the horn has become a significant sound source in basement noise life with the weirdo bleat/junk processing of John Olson’s reed kill with Wolf Eyes, Dead Machines etc., and certainly Slithers, and to a mighty free jazz extent the always amazing Paul Flaherty. Furthering all this way hep ghost-trance-sense improv is Dan Dlugosielski’s new(ish) project Uneven Universe. Dan oversees the EXBX Tapes label and has recorded great gunks of noise-jam as Haunted Castle, plus he’s spooged out a few Uneven Universe documents. The one we keep going back to is The Rattling Caverns, on sweet Ohio label Catholic Tapes. It will make you wanna huff smoke-think and drink brews and maybe get some arm-around. If you’re lucky.

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NEW MUSIC: "Moving Up A Ways" by Meg Baird, from the new ROBBIE BASHO tribute album

Stream:[audio:http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/03-Moving-Up-A-Ways.mp3%5D

A tremendous cover by Meg Baird (Espers) of Robbie Basho’s “Moving Up a Ways,” from the new, highly recommended Basho tribute album We Are One, In The Sun: A Tribute To Robbie Basho, put together by Buck Curran of Arborea. The album is available in cd from Important Records.

More on Robbie Basho: Robbie Basho Archives