Posts Tagged ‘Moviola’

Jenny Mae and Jerry Wick part 46: Guided by Voices, Part II-The Beatles, The Grifters, and Sparks

January 22, 2012

Guided by Voices, Part II: The Beatles, The Grifters, and Sparks

The house on Patterson looked good in every season, as it was constructed of bulky, brown, stained, wooden clapboard and had stony, raised gardens. In the winter it looked lonely and almost haunted, while in the summer the peeling brown clapboard was blistered by the sun, but in autumn the house was in it element. With its tarnished grass fading gray and brown and yellowing leaves bulging out of its overstuffed gutters, it could be a grimy wooden effigy or the loss that October seems to bring.

The days and nights shuddered and burped along. Every package we received at Used Kids came bearing gifts of sound, and the mail box on Patterson always seemed to contain some letter requesting music from Columbus. Time was as still as a television station that was always on but never watched. Nobody paid heed to it.

I had fallen hard for the sound of the Grifters, a band from Memphis that annihilated sound and built it back up with blasts of melodic sounds that were at once disquieting and soothing.  I had received their first full-length, So Happy Together, from Scat Records. I listened to it while working at Used Kids one morning, and by the third song I was on the phone with Robert Griffin, seeing if he could get me in contact with them. By the end of the afternoon I had booked them a show at Staches with Moviola and Gaunt.

Onstage, the Grifters were a shuddering, calculated, belching wreckage of sound. With a cloud of distorted guitars straining to stay out of tune and, in a spurt of electric coughing, the audio version of a halfback darting from the pile into open space, they would bend into a melody as breathtaking as a dive into a warm pool of water. They were, in a sense, a counter balance to Guided by Voices. Where GBV would inject a heavy dose of smiling hope into their minute-and-a-half epics, the Grifters were more concerned with the disappointment that tragedy brings, a sorrowful blend of noise and crankiness.

At that first Grifters show at Staches, there was hardly anyone there, only myself and a few patrons who had managed to pick up the band’s record at Used Kids. Jerry Wick was not yet too impressed with the Grifters, but the Ted Hattemer and the other fellows in Moviola were enamored of their sound. The Grifters took a step into the freedom of feedback and built something that was as extraordinary as a stone castle, a noisy blackened musical hook to hang yourself with.

The next morning over coffee in my dining room, I played some Guided by Voices for the Grifters, explaining that I thought they had a lot in common musically. It was apparent that Dave from the Grifters was every bit as much a music fan as Bob Pollard. We spent the morning playing records and talking music.  This listening together was a form of breaking bread, and the bond of kinship was born.

There is really nothing as a stranger asking, “What kind of music do you like?”

I always think that a good response would be, “I really like the idea of Anal Cunt, but I never really liked their sound,” or, “I really like the first Cars record because I got my first blow job to it, but after that they went completely and embarrassingly downhill.” There was a difference in the world I inhabited. It was common knowledge that we all obsessed over sound. The knowledge that the mechanism of sound could be used to transport a person somewhere else was the adhesive that held our community together.

Bob and the rest of Guided by Voices were making monthly visits to Columbus, usually to record with Mike Rep and drink beer with Ron House, Jim Shepard, Jerry and me. Shuffling into the store in the late afternoon, fresh from the hour drive from Dayton, they would arrive just in time for the five o’clock God-given right to a beer. Dan Dow once made the outrageous claim that getting stone drunk at work was not always a good idea. Ron replied, “Well Dan, that’s why we fought the fuckin’ revolution!” There was no argument from us—how could anyone dispute the constitutional right to happy hour? After sharing Rolling Rocks or vases of Budweiser at Larry’s or BW-3, Bob would huddle with Mike in the annex and mix and mash-up the tinny four-track recordings he had made. We talked music and sports mostly, because in Ohio there is really nothing else that matters. The weather is always gray, the economy is grayer, and politics is just a slick slope to traverse over beer..

One afternoon Bob asked me if I was familiar with Odyssey and Oracle, by the Zombies. “Yeah, I love it. It’s kinda like Odessa by the Bee Gees. In fact, it’s my girlfriend’s favorite record.”

“Do you have a copy?”

“Yeah, it’s not on CD yet. In fact, there’s only a crappy best of on CD. I actually think I have a first pressing as well as a Rhino re-issue. You can have the reissue or I’ll trade you something for the original.”  Bob offered to trade his copy of Slay Tracks, the first single by Pavement, which I gladly accepted.  We also talked about new bands we liked, especially the Grifters, whose tarnished, feedback-laden sound had made an impression on Bob.

He wondered aloud, “That’s what I’m trying to do, get that sound, but maybe my songs are too poppy.”

“Oh, you have to see them live. They pull all that noise off in person and it’s like watching a choreographed car wreck.”

Bob excitedly replied, “Lemme know when they play next and I’ll make sure GBV plays with them.”

Guided by Voices were playing in Columbus quite a bit. Dayton hadn’t embraced them  yet and they were not quite polished enough to get shows there, so they would come to Columbus and play with the Slave Apartments, V-3, Belreve, Gaunt, and Jenny. One of the most memorable shows they played around this time was when they opened for  V-3 and the Dutch noise band The Ex.

Roughly a month or so later, Flower Booking called me and asked if I would be willing to book another Grifters show. Although I had already brought them to Columbus several times, losing a pocketful of money on every occasion, I gladly accepted. By now Jerry had become a fan, mostly on the basis of their single “She Blows Blasts of Static”, a song of epic, noisy wreckage that pulled you in and then pummeled you with leathery hooks before offering release, so Gaunt was on the bill. I phoned Bob, who said that because it was on a week night not everyone could get off of work to play the show, but he would come up anyway. During the show, Bob, Jerry, and I were just to the left of the stage. As the Grifters plied their splintered sound in front of thirty or so souls, Bob turned to me and Jerry and yelled, “The three best bands ever: the Beatles, The Grifters, and Sparks!” Jerry and I would repeat this often to one another, nodding our head with laughter at our own inside joke. “The Beatles, the Grifters, and Sparks!” Indeed.

Bob wearing a Used Kids t-shirt on this early video

no Jenny Mae on youtube:

go.

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Jenny Mae & Jerry Wick part 32: The Fruits of Happenstance part II

May 15, 2010

The Fruits of Happenstance part two:

Jeff Graham was a different sort of musician from the type that I was used to; he had short hair that was slightly gelled, he had good teeth, no tattoos and he drove a large Land Rover. This was in stark contrast to most of the musicians I had known, even the ones who I got to know through my being a middling promoter of smallish proportions. I was quite skeptical of Jeff, my biases towards others that did not co-habitat the insular world of which I flourished tended to have an adverse effect on my willingness to venture into any sort of semblance towards mainstream culture. An attitude for which I still cling to at times with a measured tone of sanity; I will not venture into a mall today nor have I ever watched a “reality” television show. Jeff was perhaps the first “professional” engineer I had ever met, in fact of all the artists I had dealt with over the years I can only think of a few who came across as treating their craft as a professional: Dave Thomas of Pere Ubu, John Cale, Walter Salas-Humera (of the Silos) and the saxophonist Charles Gayle. The rest of the people I bumped into in the confined indie-rock world seemed cut from the same cloth as me, somewhat surprised and nonchalant about building a career out of music and always willing to sit for a drink.

Getting to know Jeff was a joy, he was good humored but serious and he was able to help Jenny not to be lazy in the studio and with her music. She was able to adhere to Jeff’s direction and he could coax her with humor and an ever flowing storage of Dewar’s. The fact that she was playing with Dan Spurgeon, whose songwriting talent could be devastatingly powerful, provided her some of the needed self-confidence she may have lacked in her earlier endeavors. Like many of us, Jenny did not like to challenge herself, at times life is easier to take when the emotional muscles of intrinsic effort may take one of kilter. We grounded ourselves in alcohol, sex and music and to challenge one of these was a risk many of us were frightened to take. Jenny had learned from Bob Pollard that a song can be perfect when written as a whole that is all at once. She would write the melody and add lyrics later, usually just snippets of something she heard or at times she would borrow some of my poetry and use some of these.

On “Don’t Wait Up for Me” she started working a bit harder on her lyrics but at times she was still hesitant to make the songs longer or to try to fully tell a story. Jeff helped her with this and my own implorations always fell on deaf ears with her. We had too much history to be able to discuss her music. I had started dating my future wife shortly before the making of this record, and I would drag her to the studio and we would huddle around the large console that took up a large part of the basement studio. Drinking beer and doing shots as Jeff played back the songs, my wife must have thought that my life was much more exotic than it really was. Boy, was she in for a wake-up call.

As the songs started to evolve I sent a few off to my friend James Hunter who was a freelance writer and worked as a scout for several record companies. James is a thin man, whose family provided him with an impeccable taste in music, fashion and the arts, his tastes run to the far end of sophistication but he is discerning enough to understand the loveliness of a Patty Loveless or Pet Shop Boy song over the annoyance of standard pop fair. I had met James several years prior as he introduced himself to me at Used Kids, he would venture up from West Virginia periodically to the bright lights of Columbus as it is often said in Kentucky and West Virginia: “readin, writin, and route 23”. As many of from the southern border states would make the exodus up Route 23 to the hopeful jobs of Franklin County. Jim introduced himself and we hit it off, he was an early supporter of Guided by Voices and he later interviewed me for a story on the underground scene for the New York Times. We hit if off over our joint fondness of classic pop and country music, with our ears perking up to the refined sounds of country stars such as Dwight Yoakum and Merle Haggard to mutual appreciation of the euro-beat sounds of Erasure and New Order to the epic vocalizing of Scott Walker and Dusty Springfield. Jim did not have the fondness of punk rock that I did nor did he embrace the DIY aesthetic of the independent scene that I so readily embraced. The Smashing Pumpkins (whom he adored) were the yin to my yang (Mudhoney) whom he did not appreciate as I did.

Upon receiving the initial tapes I sent him, James called me almost immediately, with a hurried voice full of excitement he exclaimed “this is the best demo I have heard since Basehead and Matthew Sweet.” He could not wrap his mind around the fact that this was Jenny singing, he had met her a few times at some of shows we attended. With her western-southern Ohio drawl, a propensity of saying whatever arouses in her gin-soaked brain, Jenny did not always make the best first or fourth impression. She was liable to snicker in your face with an inside joke that she barely understood herself that could be off putting, but here she was on tape, summoning the sounds of emotional profoundness as she dredged up forlorn darkness into a perfect three minute song.

James was working closely with EMI records at the time, with Davitt Sigerson, a long-time music producer (David & David, The Bangles, Tori Amos) who just took over the failing American branch of EMI Records. He asked me to send a few of the tracks Jenny was recording to Davitt and in a few weeks Davitt asked if Jenny could come and play New York. Jenny and her band had not yet played out, in fact she had not played with a stable backing band in nearly five years, and her live band always consisted of generous souls such as Wil Foster, Jovan Karcic and Derrick DeCinzo.  Davitt seemed serious, and I assume that he thought I would be more experienced than I was having run a label for nearly half a decade and working with various labels and bands over the years. I was a novice, in over my head as I was from the day I was birthed.

In the mid-nineties as the underground scene became above ground commodity there were odd marriages as major labels realized that there was something happening that they did not quite understand. As the business model they were used to shifted under the weight of Nirvana, Pavement, The Smashing Pumpkins and Helmet there were shot-gun marriages of authentically independent labels such as Matador with Atlantic then with Capital, Caroline with Virgin, Amphetamine Reptile with Atlantic and the labels were on the constant hunt for the next independent cash-cow. A readymade band for the masses to swallow without much work or planning. This very rarely succeeded and when it did the results usually ended in disaster such as the case of Nirvana and end the ruined musical careers of countless vital bands. In Ohio the amount of failed experiments could be found in every town: Gaunt, Scrawl, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Big Back 40 and V-3 (Columbus), Ass Ponys (Cincinnati), Snapdragons (Athens), Gem  & Bill Fox (Cleveland).

Moviola were starting to record their follow-up to “The Year You Were Born” and were interested in recording in a studio that couldn’t fit into a shoe box and started to record a few songs with James at Diamond Mine. This was not a good marriage but it did garner the interest of Davitt who became interested in signing Anyway to EMI with Jenny Mae and Moviola the two flagship artists. To me this was akin to betting on any Cleveland sports team to win any championship, but I was willing to listen as I took every day as something to beholden. Nothing appeared to phase me, with the exception of the endless stream of precarious romantic relationships I found myself in. I desired nothing more than to feel comfortable with a woman who felt comfortable with me and the way I lived my life. Davitt was working as a consultant on the Blondie comeback record (“No Exit”) and told me that Deborah Harry  was interested in recording one of Jenny’s songs called “Hey Baby”. Much of this would hinge in the New York show. With a handful of practices we left for New York, I had been able to secure a show at Brownies which had always been kind to Columbus bands. Jenny would play an earlier show at nine pm and then would have to leave.

We arrived early and headed to a western themed bar just down the block that I had drank in on previous trips, I quickly met up with my friend Ron who would end up putting out the next Moviola record. His lawyer was a bartender at the bar. Jenny walked in and stumbled out after an hour. Wearing my scraggly clothes, a thread bared SST t-shirt and frayed jeans, unshaven and with an eight hour car ride chased by two hours in a Manhattan country bar I met the President of EMI records. Davitt was a large man, he smoked a cigar that was as large as my wrist and seemed unmoved by my offer of drink as I explained in the most Midwestern manner that I could fathom “we were drinking free”. James was there, he appeared a bit nervous while I was quite content with the way my world was functioning the prospect of teaming of EMI did not move me either way. I would have been relieved if the larger label would just as soon Jenny and Moviola and leave me to lurk in a record store abode, content as a cat in a sunbeam.

Davitt and James sat at table off to the side of the stage, and I huddled at the bar, not knowing what to say to the ambassador of music professionalism. It was not apathy that enveloped my life it was more of being completely unskilled in any sort of communication outside of what was familiar. Choosing the underbelly of life is a pragmatic choice, one made in increments and in short life decisions, dropping a class followed by dropping out of school. Exemplified by staying out too late on a Tuesday night followed next by the Wednesday and Thursday nights, choosing a job that allows extremely casual clothes and times that are congruent with week-night drinking and dancing. When this world is as welcoming as an impassioned lover the disdain for the other side of life grows up and around the philosophy of skepticism of all things conformist.  My pod was just fine, thank you but at the same time I yearned for Jenny and Moviola to have large-scale success as I did for all of my friends. I was happy to be a conduit to their success, although I did not necessarily want a piece of it.

The club was half filled when Jenny played, a few fans were there, James McNew from Yo La Tengo and Lisa Carver were present and I was pleased an old girlfriend of mine showed up perhaps I thought, she will invite me home. Jenny played a ragged set, the band was dressed in suits and this was their first live show together, she was visibly drunk her nervousness showed like a pimple on an otherwise clear face. Any sophistication that was evident on the recordings was displaced by too many glasses of Dewar’s and Iron Horse beer. After the show, Jenny stumbled up and met Davitt; she grinned and patted his large belly. That sealed the deal, he was no longer interested. Not only that but any talk of Deborah Harry recording one her songs went out the window with the ill-fated tap upon the stomach of the President of EMI. Shortly thereafter, the recordings that Moviola were making with James disintegrated into infighting and apprehension made it evident that neither Moviola nor EMI were interested in one another. Jenny would continue to record “Don’t Wait Up For Me” not concerned about the brief flirtation with a major label, as we scurried back to Ohio filled with one night of free booze and the pleasure of seeing old friends. I made it back to that ex-girlfriend’s apartment only to throw up and pass out before I could display any of my refined cuddling tools.  The puking a perfect metaphor for the trip.

davitt sigerson

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 31: The Fruit of Happenstance part one

May 2, 2010



The Fruit of Happenstance part one.–1995-1996

“How to kill a frog?” is a question that has never entered my mind, in as much as being to ask myself a question on how to stitch a pair of jeans together. There is a saying that pertains to boiling a frog slowly and the frog becoming used to the warming water and finally being unable to escape the clutches of the water as it starts to rage around the poor critter. In this manner so it went with some of the madness that not only shrouded our lives but also provided the stability to enjoy the water as is rose around us. There were happy coincidences  that paved the way to finding company in fits of panicked loneliness where one would find themselves talking to the bass player of band passing through town and discovering her best friend went out with a local lead singer or even the fact that her favorite obscure song is not so obscure to you. These were the breathtaking episodes that have long provided the mini-oasis’s of my life, for a moment when the world would halt around dim-litted beer signs and the skinny shuddering of a bare chested man, belting out “this is a job for a stupid man…” as he would slither across a crowd of other like minded rabble who cursed day jobs of slinging paper into feeders or food on plates. In that scene everything would breathe in at once and then freeze, like a Nike sports commercial where the athlete hovers in the air in science fiction fashion, I starred in my own science fiction where reality would peer through as if blanketed in mask made of panty hose. I could see the outlines but never the details.

Shit just fell in our lap; karma meant nothing as there was no sense of order in an existence that was constructed out of attention deficit disorder cement. In the summer of 1995 as I lurched through a marriage and divorce that grabbed and shook all of the disappointment from a childhood designed by escape the music was the only promise that held true. Jenny was in New Orleans, living the life of a bohemian that many of us in Columbus only pretended to be, she had left the past behind as she ran from her future. Her apartment was just off the French Quarter, working as a waitress she and her husband at the time, spent evening in the jazz clubs she adored and she painted and grew her flowers in a small courtyard directly behind her house.

Ted Hattemer and I assembled her debut album and I hated her idea of the cover, I should have trusted my instincts and used just one black and white photo of her as a naked child smiling as she was showered with the garden hose. That year, the dinky little label that Jerry and I started just a few years would release four full length records through Revolver USA. The promise that Jerry had bellowed in my ear that we would be self-sustaining appeared to be happening even if my utter accident.  In fact, in hindsight it was amazing that we could even get records shipped out on time, as only recently I discovered a check of $22 from Comm Four, a tiny distribution company in New York dated from 1993. Revolver USA was at this point completely funding the label, with a belief that some of the international and national press that music from Columbus was garnering would translate into sales. Years later I have a garage filled with physical copies of mis-guided faith in my business acumen.

We did not realize that some of the fuel that made us burn could also consume our everyday existence as evidenced by the marriage and divorce that rocked my little rock and roll world that year. Instead of celebration I was wrecked with self-doubt and reservation. Jenny appeared to enjoy New Orleans but she got the itch to return to Columbus and soon was living in the little green house directly behind what now houses The Bourbon Street and Summit nightclubs. Upon returning, she hooked up with Jeff Graham, who owned a small basement studio on the outskirts of what can only be referred to as the hood.

Diamond Mine studios was housed in a small pillbox styled house in the Linden area of Columbus, an area that my mother grew up in. During the forties this area was populated by many of the returning G.I.s who would use their GI Bill money and live in this new developed neighborhood. Stretching from just north of downtown Columbus, Linden is bordered by the I-71 freeway directly to the west and Cleveland Avenue which shoots out of downtown in an angled line like a bullet from a gun. Linden was a victim of white flight in the mid-fifties, and my mother’s parents were the only white family to stay in their house on 19th Avenue and Hamilton. Diamond Mine lay just to the north of this house, and today the neighborhood is pocket-marked by blocks of suburban bliss only to be rudely accented by the next block housing boarded up crack houses and gun shots borne out of frustration and confusion.

I knew who Jeff was, he was in couple of bands that were of the college rock variety, whose influences would both consist of Elvis Costello and Kansas so I knew little of him. I was shocked when I was led down to the basement studio which was much larger and sophisticated than I had ever imagined. It was the real deal, not some crappy cassette 4-track set up on a case of Black Label beer with shitty Radio Shack microphones duct-taped to broken mic-stands. His sound board had different colored lights and could have from a set of Star Trek. He played me some of the new songs Jenny was recording with him, Dan Spurgeon and Sean Woosely. The sound was rich, deep and sophisticated; I could not believe my ears. I had no idea that Jenny could sing to well. Maybe she wasn’t such a fuck up as she hic-cupped her way around me in the cramped studio….

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 30: Funerals and Winter

April 18, 2010

Funerals and Winter

Winters in Ohio are made of the emotional dregs of depression, the ashen polluted air of decrepit steel mills and coal mines and a landscape populated with battered hopes and forlorn thoughts. These somehow congeal together to make a gray morass of dingy desperate grey that rises with the fallen hopes of fall football fans stretching from Cincinnati (the Bungles), through Columbus (the Luckeyes) and settling into Cleveland (the Mistake on the Lake. This gray wraps around the skyline from November, just in time for most of the football Gods to have squelched any hope for a January championship, into the late blasting winds of March. It is unrelenting and oppressive, with an ability to cause statewide cursing on a daily basis by almost broken saddened masses who wrap themselves as snuggly as they can in winter coats, multi-colored scarves and wet boots that get their monies worth in the ever ending slush of winter.

There is a certain physical hardness that comes from living in Ohio, where brutal winter after brutal winter can shape a face into a soft enamel of skin. This is more from the neurotic impact of the never-ending gray than the wind and snow. Ohio lacks any semblance of a mountains and the haphazardness of the weather disallows such outdoor winter fare as pond skating, skiing or hockey so we naturally hold things in, wearing brave faces, drink beer and hone a cynicism that only a veteran bar-fly would appreciate. For many Ohioans, they go underground, hibernating in basement dens with large televisions, pizza and sports television thus resulting in bodies transfigured by lack of exercise and shitty food, bloated and immense as the depression that festers inside the girth. For others of us, we pined for escape through art, music, treadmills and alcohol we found our relief in stumbling through the slop of icy mud while we looked for our cars that we only parked a few hours earlier. I am not certain if there are any studies on the rise of alcohol sales and the use of anti-depressants in the winter months but I am quite certain that in Ohio these tend to skyrocket.

Jerry passed away in January, it was fitting that his death arrived amid snow drifts and the general crappiness of Ohio weather. Where the general mood is “what the fuck else can go wrong”, where many people tend to take the weather personally as another gray filled day is an act from God, exacting one more piece of a bruised soul. Anyway, this was how I felt when Jerry died, I had suffered from depression for many years and the old ways of dealing with it were drying up as much as I was trying to keep them wet. The music scene was changing for me, and much of my hopes in bands and artists were being vanquished by the personal choices the musicians were making. Jenny was living in Florida, having given up her music career as she stood on the brink of minor-celebrity in the indie-rock world, Moviola had shrunk from the favors of major-label overtures in favor of children and home buying, Appalachian Death Ride had basically ceased to exist as members battled their own demons, only the New Bomb Turks were still making music. Jerry was dead and I felt my life was now being defined by lose.

The world was getting suffocating, the choices fewer and while not yet thirty-three I couldn’t see myself at forty yet alone at thirty-five. Instead of being an active participant, as I once was I struggled to find a place within my shifting existence. I was certainly becoming someone whom I swore I would never become, a cynical bitter shadow who ducked from participation to search for meager pockets of laughter and sex brought by the ingestion of alcohol. Even these once fantastical pursuits were shriveling up and unsatisfying. Jim Shepard had hung himself, his life defined by his rejected death, swinging by a belt fastened to a doorway whose sole purpose was to hold the weight of the walls above the passerby’s was now betrayed by the ultimate act of sadness. For myself, the suicide of Jim was an event that reached deep with my own psyche bringing a long thought act into fruition, it was as destabilizing an event as any as I had ever encountered. Until the death of Jerry.

Jerry’s funeral was planned by his family, who were sweeter than I would have thought, as for many years Jerry shied away from his upbringing as so many of us were prone to do. Our insular world was filled with familial outcasts who not only scattered far from our physical upbringing but tended to push the memories of broken childhoods away to be replaced by the swagger and commotion of searing guitars, cigarettes and laughter. These latter three ingredients were the saviors we always searched for, and for me they were being replaced by urns and pine boxes. Jerry was buried in Parma, Ohio and large working class suburb of Cleveland, filled with tiny shoe-box houses constructed after the Second World War to house the returning G.I.’s and their lustful spouses. I met his father, mother and younger brother, trying in vain to let them know the joy their son had brought to our confined world. How Jerry’s music had touched people overseas and most importantly been able to grant those who knew and love him a starting point for merriment and copious amounts of late night cackling. I don’t know if I ever came close to succeeding. Jerry, flinched with the sound of religion especially fundamentalist Christianity, he would badger me for my weekly attendance to mass and try in vain to poke holes in my belief in Catholicism. His funeral was rigid, with a large gathering of his friends from Columbus, Cleveland and Chicago crowded into the hard wooden pews that were symbiotic of the service. The pastor didn’t try to capture Jerry’s audacious sense of humor and was much more focused on the afterlife, with little semblance of hope for those gathered around his coffin that we could emerge from foolish lifestyles.

I had driven up with Brett Lewis and our friend Jim, my girlfriend was going to meet us up there for the funeral. They picked me up at my house, I brought along a bottle of vodka I had started to become friendly with and a twelve pack of beer. We landed in at the motel and caught up with Bettina Richards and Elliot Dix, a Columbus native who had become a fixture in the Chicago music scene. We went out to the small neighbor dive bars that Jerry no doubt would have inhabited if he chose to stay in Parma and laughed as we told ridiculous Jerry story after ridiculous story. When I walked into the funeral home the next day and saw Jerry laying in the casket I quickly turned heel and found a dive-bar just a muddle away from the funeral home. I had two doubles of Maker’s Mark and returned, emboldened by the alcohol I could now face my friend. I knew at that moment I had a very serious issue with alcohol.

Cleveland was gray with a callous skyline that heaved masses of smoke into the air, as if the smoke stacks that pocketed the area were upturned water faucets, gushing grayer into an already overflowing bathtub of sky. We huddled around his grave as tears fell to the ground and the shattered expressions blossomed around the cemetery, I felt guilty as I did not answer his father’s call for pall bearers. I wanted to hide somewhere but stood there with my back against a tree, muttering to our friends about the Jerry’s foolishness. Jerry’s parents made a beautiful gravestone for him, complete with a guitar carved into the granite surface. For them, the loss must have been greater as they never had the opportunity to know the sheer pleasure of their adult boy, only unanswered questions. I was too chickenshit to help them clean his house out, I begged off every opportunity I could as they made the trip from Cleveland; they were left alone to piece together his life over the past twelve years. Later, his father contacted me, asking for video of his son. I still haven’t gathered these together.

I quit drinking roughly over a year later; I had a very difficult year after Jerry died. A year filled with trepidation, loss, and eventually new awakenings. As, I traversed early sobriety, Jerry would flash across my mind and leave tiny bits of encouragement as I fought feelings of escape and angst. I was one of the only persons I had known to give up the drink at that time, a singular figure in my life held up by the unsettling events of my near past and the promise of strangers I had no idea existed. When my daughter was born nearly four years later, I would cradle her in my arms and think of Jerry. How much he loved kids, he loved to be silly and how much he would have loved my darling little daughter.  For once, I think Jerry would have been brave enough to tell me he was proud of me. For a moment even the gray of an Ohio winter, cast rays of light throughout my life.

photo by Jay Bown

Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae Part 13: Ted Hattemer

September 19, 2009

1991–2001

We all had our saviors, although we didn’t always realize it at the time. This should be clarified, I believe that both Jenny Mae and I had our saviors while Jerry searched for one, through his music, through the booze and the bars but his inability to let himself be emotionally close prevented anybody to help pull him up and out. For me and Jenny one of our mutual guardians was a mild mannered man named Ted Hattemer. Ted was active in the underground scene long before I ever met him in 1991, he was a bearded long-haired bartender at Bernie’s, slinging mugs of imported beer for barflies that would try to travel the world on a barstool without ever leaving the cozy, stinking confines of the underground bagel shop. Ted was involved all types of ridiculous sounding band names during the late eighties such as Cavejacket before finding a home in the moody lumbering Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie for which he played bass.

It was at this juncture that I began to know Ted, he was soft spoken, polite and articulate and brought a sense of seriousness to any interaction with him. Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie, in hindsight was not that terrific of a band but they did provide a respite from the more amplified churning of most High Street punk and funk bands that dotted most nightclubs. Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie sounded like Monster Magnet’s little brother without the sense of junkie-dangerousness that early Monster Magnet brought to the table, SFH did not see the necessity to explore anything harder than what most college undergraduates experiment with. For the summer of 1992 (or was it 1991), Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie was the soundtrack at Bernie’s and they appeared to be the house band. As the summer rolled on they vastly improved, with their singer Steve (who bore an uncanny resemblance to Jim Morrison) becoming more comfortable with a guttural growl they provided a pleasant backdrop to playing the Terminator pinball game and swigging Black Label beer.

Ted worked for the Ohio State University; he was basically the only person on the scene who had a real job, one that you had to wash a shirt for.  Although it should be noted that Eric’s Mother, an un-melodic psychedelic band whose singer had spooky eyes and blew fire out of his mouth had a working lawyer in the band. Ted worked on computers for the university and he lived in a large house with several men who would later form the more organic sounding Moviola. At this point, Anyway Records was generating a bit of a buzz, with all of our first five singles selling out immediately upon release. Jerry and I did not think of repressing anything, we were to hurried to think backwards so we wanted to get as much out as we could. One would never know when the proverbial other shoe would drop. We both had lifetimes of shoes dropping around us. Their clatter bearing witness to the utter bafflement of our lives.

Jerry and I started to break apart somewhat at this point; there were more pressing issues with Jerry and Gaunt. Gaunt was in the midst of recording their first full-length and I was bankrolling almost all of Anyway myself with help from the bands. Jerry, who was supposed to be providing a chunk of money, simply didn’t have it. He was disappointed with my leanings towards more pop friendly choices in bands (Log, Greenhorn and Belreve) while his big project was a single by Monster Truck Five whose squalid sounds would frighten the paint off of witches’ house. I ended up paying for over half of the MT005 single including the mastering which took an afternoon to do.  The noise that MT005 on tape caused the arm of the lacquer machine to jump off the waxy plate every time the engineer tried to carve the sounds into the lacquer. John Hull and kindly old man who ran our local pressing plant turned to me after several hours and said ever-so-gently, “so, people listen to this.”  I nodded, “I suppose.”  Jerry and I were both too unskilled to resolve our annoyances at one another over the MT005 single and we simply did what we did best which was to bitch about the other person to whom would ever listen. At times, we both thought the other a complete idiot.

I was approached by Ted and Wayne Lin of SFH during this summer and asked if Anyway would be interested in doing a Stupid Fuckin’ Hippie single that they would finance. I replied “sure.” There were several reasons for this, the main being that both men worked at bartenders at one of my favorite places to drink and the other was that I thought their music was interesting and they  both understood that Anyway was more of a community enterprise at this point than anything else. Jerry was not pleased and by the end of the year he would leave Anyway to me.

This is how I came to know Ted; shortly after this Craig Dunson who was playing guitar in Jenny’s band Vibralux played me a space-echoy song called “Wrecking Ball” by a gutter punk band named the Econothugs. I was blown away, it sounded like carnival version of Galaxie 500. Craig explained that the singer from the Econothugs, Jake Housh was making a new band called Moviola and they would sound like this. Craig’s new label Eardrop, would be putting out their single.  There were many new labels sprouting up in Columbus, no doubt by the idea that if two drunk fuck-ups like Jerry and I could find success anybody could. What we may have lacked in business or planning acumen was made up in surgical passion and a giddiness for the absurd, which is what the world was like for us. Ted was going to play drums. Ted and I became good friends at this point, I trusted his judgment and I admired the fact that he was stable, with a 9-5 job and he was buying a house. Nobody I knew bought a house or a new car. Ted shortly became the defacto art-director of Anyway, laying out most of the covers for singles, CD’s and vinyl covers. He helped me find out how to procure a bar-code for the label.

In a few years Ted would save me from several embarrassing romantic castrophies. I had started seeing a woman who was living with a man in Athens, Ohio. She was a driven, beautiful and ummm driven. She wanted to leave him and I agreed she should. Why not?  We had only been seeing one another for a few weeks and she said she was going to move to Columbus where she had grown up. I thought this was a good idea, she was unhappy with him, had recently graduated from Ohio University and Columbus made sense. “Sure, move up” I told her. In a few days she arrived in front of my house with her pick-up truck filled with her belongings.  I liked my relationships to be at arm’s length emotionally and physically I preferred them to be several blocks apart. My lonely nightly darkness was too intense to share with anybody at this point in my life; it would just lead to yet another disappointment. While she waited at my front door I hurriedly phoned Ted and explained that this woman had just arrived at my house with all her shit, and not just for the weekend. There were lamps in the back of that black truck. I could see them jutting out of boxes, surrounded by paintings and toiletries. If I wasn’t so dehydrated from a night of drinking I would have pissed down my leg. Ted didn’t flinch; he said “you know Scotty just moved to Alaska for the summer, she can stay in his room.” That is friendship. Needless to say there was some animosity between the woman and myself and the relationship died an awkward deflated death on my front yard that Saturday morning but it cemented my friendship with Ted.

A few years later, after my five month “infomercial” marriage disintegrated in a heap of busted expectations, tears and broken plates Ted would remodel his attic and take me and my two obnoxious but lovable dogs into his house.

Just as I had relied on Jenny after my suicidal breakup in 1991, she would return to me over the years to help and motivate her. At times this caused an ordinate amount of grief for both of us, with me believing that I was watching a house burning around her and her believing that I was overtly critical of her life. Jenny had a knack of getting some of the most talented musicians in town to back her up, an assortment of  Columbus finest including Dan Spurgeon who fronted Greenhorn, Craig Dunson from Pica Huss, Mark Deane who played drums for Pica Huss, Mary Adam 12 and Monster Truck 005, Derrick DeCinzo a professional jack-of-all-trades jazz musician, Wil Foster of Clay and the Guinea Worms, Jovan Karcic and Ted all played and recorded with Jenny over the years.

Jenny was confounding as an artist, at times brilliant and at others a pathetic mess who would rather smash her equipment and drink beer than practice or play shows out of town. It was as if every time something was planned for her a collective breath would be held and more times than not the breath would be blown towards the floor as a small community would slowly shake their heads. Ted was always supportive of Jenny, dropping his plans to either fill in on drums or bass for her. He played out of town shows with her several times and was present whenever she needed him. At the height of Jenny’s madness she would bulldoze this relationship, and soon she would be on her own in the streets of Columbus.