Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Cold Specks: Portishead’s “Glory Box” Live On “Jools Holland”

Singing lines like “Don’t you wait on me/I’ll shoot you down,” her voice is enough to send chills down your spine. But once she steps offstage, the woman who calls herself Al Spx is famously shy and unfailingly distant. “I created a stage name, and it’s allowed me to remove myself from any sort of emotional attachment to the songs,” says Spx, who records under the name Cold Specks, borrowed from James Joyce’s Ulysses. “Al Spx can take care of that. For me, there’s no personal element to the songs anymore, or if there is, it’s disguised.” Two years after releasing I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, Spx is bored with most of the album. Touring is “physically and mentally draining,” and though she still performs the singles, she’s tired of feeling like a bad actress. So, she’s crafted a follow-up, Neuroplasticity (Mute), that’s even bleaker than the first, trading in the acoustic doom-folk of her debut for a richer, more expansive goth-soul that’s one-part sturm and three-parts drang. Spx will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

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Spx: I always enjoy hunting down TV performances of my favourite bands. There are a handful of excellent Portishead clips online. This one of “Glory Box” from 1994 is a standout. This is an excellent performance of a brilliant song.

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From The Desk Of Cold Specks: Scott Walker’s “Rosary” Live On “Jools Holland”

Singing lines like “Don’t you wait on me/I’ll shoot you down,” her voice is enough to send chills down your spine. But once she steps offstage, the woman who calls herself Al Spx is famously shy and unfailingly distant. “I created a stage name, and it’s allowed me to remove myself from any sort of emotional attachment to the songs,” says Spx, who records under the name Cold Specks, borrowed from James Joyce’s Ulysses. “Al Spx can take care of that. For me, there’s no personal element to the songs anymore, or if there is, it’s disguised.” Two years after releasing I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, Spx is bored with most of the album. Touring is “physically and mentally draining,” and though she still performs the singles, she’s tired of feeling like a bad actress. So, she’s crafted a follow-up, Neuroplasticity (Mute), that’s even bleaker than the first, trading in the acoustic doom-folk of her debut for a richer, more expansive goth-soul that’s one-part sturm and three-parts drang. Spx will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on her.

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Spx: I’m a huge Scott Walker fan. There are only a handful of live performances on the internet. “Rosary” is a song I constantly find myself returning to. This particular performance is utterly compelling. Take a look at this beautifully intense clip.

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Cold Specks: Being Mindful

ColdSpecks

Cold Specks mastermind Al Spx revels in anonymity … while she can

Singing lines like “Don’t you wait on me/I’ll shoot you down,” her voice is enough to send chills down your spine. But once she steps offstage, the woman who calls herself Al Spx is famously shy and unfailingly distant.

“I created a stage name, and it’s allowed me to remove myself from any sort of emotional attachment to the songs,” says Spx, who records under the name Cold Specks, borrowed from James Joyce’s Ulysses. “Al Spx can take care of that. For me, there’s no personal element to the songs anymore, or if there is, it’s disguised.”

Two years after releasing I Predict A Graceful Expulsion, Spx is bored with most of the album. Touring is “physically and mentally draining,” and though she still performs the singles, she’s tired of feeling like a bad actress. So, she’s crafted a follow-up, Neuroplasticity (Mute), that’s even bleaker than the first, trading in the acoustic doom-folk of her debut for a richer, more expansive goth-soul that’s one-part sturm and three-parts drang.

“I made a conscious decision to write songs to perform, songs that weren’t necessarily about me,” says Spx. “I made a conscious decision not to play any instruments, because I wasn’t loving it anymore. I’m not too precious about the songs, so if I’m not a convincing player, I’ll just get someone else to do it better and focus on my singing.”

As Spx, she has no past and no present; she’s “just the girl who sings the songs.” Taking a short break between recording sessions, she claims Spx is “the nickname I’ve always had,” though seconds earlier, said was it “top-secret information,” and seconds later said it was “a way to save myself from myself.” In between, she says she “just needed a name,” that it’s “not very interesting,” that “I didn’t want my name attached to the project” and that “I don’t want it to define me.”

Apart from “no comment,” that’s all she’s ready to say. Thankfully, we already know she was born and raised in Toronto as the daughter of Somali immigrants, and dropped out of university to become a singer. Somewhere along the way, she heard the field recordings of Alan Lomax, possibly through Moby’s Play, and since recording her debut, she’s been shortlisted for the Juno Award, and guested on albums by Moby, Swans and jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, who appears on Neuroplasticity.

We know the new songs were written in a cottage in Somerset in the winter of 2012 (“I probably didn’t choose the most ideal season to live there,” she says) and were recorded in Montreal, where Spx currently lives. That they were written on piano, and performed by her sometime band of “five English boys,” with an accent on portentousness, freeing Spx to deliver the songs with maximum undead theatricality. And for now, with the session about to begin again, that’ll have to do.

“We recorded Neuroplasticity over the course of a year, and I think the time I gave to the recording allowed for some growth sonically, thematically, vocally,” she says, comparing it to the 12 days spent in the studio for I Predict A Graceful Expulsion. “There was a lot of time spent avoiding surprises.”

—Kenny Berkowitz

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: Recovering Carnivore

Vicki Peterson (lead guitarist of the Bangles) and Susan Cowsill (with her family’s band the Cowsills since the age of eight) are currently tilling the fields as the Psycho Sisters, and it’s given them rare perspective on making music that many lesser talents would lack. Their debut album, Up On The Chair, Beatrice is out now via the RockBeat label. Peterson and Cowsill will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with them.

Recovering

Peterson: I’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years. It’s not a guideline or an occasional dietary discipline. I just don’t eat meat. Ever. (Unless some mean-spirited person slips it to me somehow undetected.) I’ll eat dairy and eggs, but nothing with a face or a father. I’m not really sure how this came to be such a consistent—possibly the most consistent—aspect of my life. I wasn’t a frail, squeamish child who shied away from eating animals. Steak was my favorite dinner, if you don’t count the spare-rib eating contests I used to have with my father. I loved BBQ of all types and thought white meat was for sissies.

When I was living in Hollywood, cleaning bathrooms in exchange for a couch to sleep on, I rarely ate meat simply because tea and popcorn fit my budget better. At those late night, after-show deli meals with friends, I would order just a salad. Girlish figure and all, you know. I was mildly surprised when I realized one day that it had been more than six months since I’d consumed a serious meat product.

My boyfriend and I were watching a PBS special on vegetarianism late one night. George Bernard Shaw referred to cooked meat as “charred defunct animal flesh.” Yes! Isn’t that exactly what it is? Something clicked, and right then and there Jeff McDonald and I decided to become vegetarians. No shouting from the rooftops or protesting at processing plants, just, “Hey, let’s be vegetarians.” “Yeah, let’s!”

That week the Bangles held a field trip to a Dodgers game. Friends, family, managers all piled into a large van and headed to Dodger Stadium. I was blithely looking forward to a traditional day of baseball, sun and a famous Dodger hotdog. It did not strike me until I was in line and about to order that I no longer eat hot dogs, even famous Dodger dogs. I ordered one anyway, took the frank out of the bun, heaped on the mustard and onions, and ate the bread. I think that was the last time I felt any sort of deprivation at all from a meatless diet.

Touring as a non-meat-eater in the 80’s—and even 90’s—was a challenge, though. Europe was bread and cheese (and chocolate—c’mon, how bad is that?) because places like Germany seemed to put ham in everything. America was chef salads without the chef, and ordering soup invariably meant the waiter had to run back to the kitchen to see if a chicken stock was used in the base, annoying everyone else at the table.

Nowadays I can get a black bean burger at McDonald’s in London, and I’m happy as a clam. (Don’ t eat them, either … )

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: An Angel

Vicki Peterson (lead guitarist of the Bangles) and Susan Cowsill (with her family’s band the Cowsills since the age of eight) are currently tilling the fields as the Psycho Sisters, and it’s given them rare perspective on making music that many lesser talents would lack. Their debut album, Up On The Chair, Beatrice is out now via the RockBeat label. Peterson and Cowsill will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with them.

Angel

Cowsill:
One day I met an angel
She looked a lot like me
I taught her everything I know
I told her she was free
Don’t let the world

The part that lies
Put poison in your heart
Grow big and strong and learn to see
That forever there is only love

Remember to only let darkness in
At night to cool your sleep
For if you let it linger long
Your soul it will try to keep
It will tell you stories about yourself
Not one of them will be true
For you are an angel
From my heart
Filled with beauty through and through

So remember all I tell you here
You are from love and light you see
Remember me as the one who sings
My angel you are free

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: May We Make A Suggestion?

Vicki Peterson (lead guitarist of the Bangles) and Susan Cowsill (with her family’s band the Cowsills since the age of eight) are currently tilling the fields as the Psycho Sisters, and it’s given them rare perspective on making music that many lesser talents would lack. Their debut album, Up On The Chair, Beatrice is out now via the RockBeat label. Peterson and Cowsill will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with them.

Suggestions

Peterson: The first full-band Psycho Sisters rehearsal took place sometime in late 1991 at Uncle Studios in lovely Van Nuys, Calif. The rooms were small and had seen better days, but the place was run by our friend (and future Continental Drifters bandmate) Mark Walton and had a certain beer-sodden, rock ‘n’ roll charm.

Susan had grown up in a band with her older brothers, and they ran the show; she sang what and when they told her to. My experience of band government was chiefly Life By Committee, sharing all decisions equally, running things ostensibly as a democracy. This was different. This was the Psycho Sisters, and after performing as a duo for a few months, Susan and I were ready to try and put a band together. We gathered a few friends and set a date at the rehearsal studio.

That first night presented a potential danger zone—how were we, two women who had never really been the leader of the pack before, manage to keep control over our well meaning but over-enthusiastic side guys? We were determined to be benevolent overlords who called the musical shots—but how to do this with force and grace? We ruminated over pre-rehearsal martinis at a nearby restaurant (one of those neighborhood places that has a toy train coursing around the ceiling perimeter) before finally devising a sure-fire weapon against pushy male bandmates.

Yes, of course, we’d say. Suggestions? We’d love to hear what you think of this arrangement. Feel free. Write it down. Why, we’ll even provide a box for you. A suggestion box. Without a slot.

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: Santa Claus

Vicki Peterson (lead guitarist of the Bangles) and Susan Cowsill (with her family’s band the Cowsills since the age of eight) are currently tilling the fields as the Psycho Sisters, and it’s given them rare perspective on making music that many lesser talents would lack. Their debut album, Up On The Chair, Beatrice is out now via the RockBeat label. Peterson and Cowsill will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with them.

SantaClaus

Cowsill:
I still believe
I will always believe
You should try it
It feels good

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: List For A Sunday

Vicki Peterson (lead guitarist of the Bangles) and Susan Cowsill (with her family’s band the Cowsills since the age of eight) are currently tilling the fields as the Psycho Sisters, and it’s given them rare perspective on making music that many lesser talents would lack. Their debut album, Up On The Chair, Beatrice is out now via the RockBeat label. Peterson and Cowsill will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with them.

Sunday

Peterson:
• Fireflies in Central Park
• The speedy healing of two sprained fingers
• A day away from home when neither my husband nor I have a show to do
• Brickwork on old buildings
• Discovering a new favorite wine varietal (arneis)
• Delicious tap water
• Meeting our daughter’s boyfriend (and really liking him)
• Men’s wristwatches
• When Mars looks as though it’s sitting right on top of the half moon
• Tacos vegetables at Rosa’s Mexicana
• A neighbor who, unbidden, waters my wilted plants while I’m away
• Hummingbird Happy Hour

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: The Crescent City

Vicki Peterson (lead guitarist of the Bangles) and Susan Cowsill (with her family’s band the Cowsills since the age of eight) are currently tilling the fields as the Psycho Sisters, and it’s given them rare perspective on making music that many lesser talents would lack. Their debut album, Up On The Chair, Beatrice is out now via the RockBeat label. Peterson and Cowsill will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with them.

CrescentCity

Cowsill:
It is where I live
Where I raise my children
Where I found my last love
A place I go to feel the old ways
A city that will chain your soul to its streets and never let you go
A home you take with you when you leave
A home that will be waiting for you when you return
It is where I live
It is where I will always live
In my heart

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: It’s Hot (Eat Salad)

Vicki Peterson (lead guitarist of the Bangles) and Susan Cowsill (with her family’s band the Cowsills since the age of eight) are currently tilling the fields as the Psycho Sisters, and it’s given them rare perspective on making music that many lesser talents would lack. Their debut album, Up On The Chair, Beatrice is out now via the RockBeat label. Peterson and Cowsill will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with them.

Salad

Peterson:
Romaine and cucumber salad with tahini dressing

Yield: makes four servings

For tahini dressing:
1/4 cup well-stirred tahini (Middle Eastern sesame paste)
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mild honey
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

For salad:
1/2 pound romaine, torn into bite-size pieces (6 cups)
1 bunch radishes (1/2 pound), trimmed, halved, and thinly sliced (1 cup)
1/2 seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Make dressing:
Blend all dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth. (If desired, blend in more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to thin dressing.)

Make salad:
Toss together all salad ingredients in a large bowl with just enough dressing to coat.

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