Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: The Sky And The Snow And Other Things

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.

SnowSky

Cowsill: When I was a young girl, I had the power to make it snow. It was uncanny! No sooner did I see those low lying smoky grey puffs of silence then I would start my chanting prayer, “It’s gonna snow, it’s gonna snow, it’s gonna snow,” and then, as if by magic, (cuz it was!), the flakes would begin to fall for all to see, worship and revel in, brought to you by little ole me! Sledding and no school was my gift to the neighborhood. One that I kept quite to myself so as not to boast! I felt like a secret super hero! Ladies and gentleman, introducing “Snow Girl.” I thought it had a nice ring to it!

In experiencing this miracle of making it snow, time and time again, I started to believe I could do anything I put my mind to. Through the years, I would rely on this mystical power of my own sheer will to get me through the toughest of circumstances and to help bring about the results I wanted, and way more importantly, the ones I needed. For instance, another one of my talents, which produced the remarkable effect of saving a perfectly horrible day, or week or even a whole year, was the simple act of “staring at the sky.” Sometimes I would do this for hours on end, which I believe to be the recipe for the saving of an entire horrible year, where as a mere glimpse at the sky at just the right disastrous moment could and did in fact save my very life! From time to time I still do it, with equally shinning results!

I should like to tell you of the data I have collected in regards to exponential results in levels of compassion, that simply sitting under a tree for 10 minutes can yield, but that is for another day.

There are secret things in this world that most of the time we cannot see or touch or hear, but we know without a doubt, they are there. There are “super powers” like faith and hope and belief. I for one would not be alive without them. The young girl in me knows still believes these secret powers to be real. See this life through the eyes of a child, and you have a much better chance of growing old.

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: Guiltless Pleasures

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.

Guiltless

Peterson: When I was a member of the Continental Drifters, we would sometimes play a game of “Guilty Pleasures,” in which we’d take turns revealing love for a potentially embarrassing song. It takes courage (sometimes of the liquid sort) to stand and declare how much you really, deep down, secretly love a song that you know for a fact is uncool. When a child, I’d been teased by my older sister and many others for being a Cowsills fan. I thought the sound of the sibling-blend harmonies they created was magical. If I’d been playing this game with any other group of people, I’d probably have to include a Cowsills song or two, but my Drifter cohorts were, like me, Cowsills aficionados, and so those songs didn’t qualify. There was no belittlement to be suffered from offering up “Beautiful Beige” or even “We Can Fly.”

John Denver was another story. My sister Pam had excoriated me for buying his records, too, but this time my bandmates seemed to agree. Except for Susan Cowsill. Years later, when Susan was preparing a solo set before a Bangles show in San Francisco, she debated whether or not to include Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulders.” Taking a quick survey in the dressing room, Susan found that both Susanna and I were behind her all the way, but my sister Debbi was completely disgusted. Susan ended up not playing the song that night, but I applauded her courage.

Guiltless Pleasures (or songs I am not ashamed to love):
Os Mutantes “Panis Et Circenses”
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Peter & Gordon “A World Without Love”
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The Cowsills “Poor Baby”
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The Left Banke “Walk Away Renee”
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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: Grief In The Key Of Me

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.

Grief

Cowsill:
An egg ready to crack, though it’s guaranteed safe in its carton
A cry that sits silent on its shelf jealous of all the other cries being heard
Remembering what wasn’t and wishing that it could have been
A twin watching a part of him disappear before his very eyes
The end of possibilities
Air that isn’t there and then not being able to breathe it when it is
Old friends and lines of sorrow on their faces
Hidden weakness
Facades of strength
Preserving sweet memories and running them like a Saturday matinee
Also staying for the midnight showing
Being grateful for having been a part
Forgiveness
Selflessness and how good that feels
Knowing that in the end, there is only love
And that that love, will see you through

Round the bend, Rich

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: ’90s Mix Tape

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.

90s

Peterson: I’m on the road at the moment and don’t have before me my eclectic, full-of-musical-holes-but-still-interesting CD collection. I was thinking about what made the ‘90s sound like the ‘90s, possibly because the Psycho Sisters’ material (the original stuff) was all written in the early years of that decade, and it’s been suggested that the record has a ‘90s tone. What does that mean? Many people reduce the ’90s to flannel and Nirvana, but I remember it as a time with diverse musical markers: Oasis, the Wallflowers, Alanis Morrisette, the Spice Girls, Boyz II Men, No Doubt.

My world in the 1990s (and possibly an easier route to understanding where the Psychos live) revolved more around bands that shook off the shimmer and shine of the 1980’s and were unafraid to be unpretty. Here are some picks from my memory:

The Continental Drifters “Drifters”
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Eleven “All Together”
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Veruca Salt “Volcano Girls”
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Giant Sand “Solomon’s Ride”
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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: Christmas Tree Farms

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.

ChristmasTreeFarm

Cowsill: It’s mid-summer, traveling down the road via a 15-passenger van with Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend” serenading the weary travelers, when all at once it is upon us!!! A Christmas tree farm! We must be in the Carolinas as that is where I believe, most of them are born, yes, you heard me … born! I find myself immediately moved to tears while surveying the baby Christmas trees. I imagine them all grown up and ready, willing and excited to be chopped down and taken to the lot where some loving family will take them home and spend heavenly hours caring for, decorating and completely appreciating their presence, their very essence in there home.

They will stand peacefully, majestically and honorably in the glow of the lights that were so carefully placed on them by the one in the family who knows best. They will hear the laughter of the children, feel their joy and share in their wonder as they place invaluable handed down ornaments on their limbs. And most precious of all, they will witness the magic of this season that gently covers this mostly troubled world in a veil of mystery, loving spirit and beauty that only the innocent can see and feel all year long. I am jealous of this privilege! I would be honored to be a Christmas tree!

As the tree farm fades along with my daydream, I am brought back into my body and the real world to the echoed chanting voices of “War Of Man,” and I’m thinking, maybe I’ll put in a request for the next time around. I think I’d look great in Noble Fur!

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: 29 Palms Inn

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.

29Palms

Peterson: I’m a forest person, as opposed to beach or desert. I gravitate to trees—preferably fragrant conifers. Despite this fact, I find myself repeatedly attracted to Joshua Tree National Park, the soul of the Mojave Desert. For years now, I’ve been driving the two hours or so from my home to the Oasis of Mara to sit for a few days in an old adobe cottage at the 29 Palms Inn.

When I first visited there in the ‘80s, the compound seemed like a relic of the ’60s: a hippie enclave, charming and a little run down. A decade or so later, the secret was out and there was a fashion photo shoot going on outside the cottage next to mine. European accents were overheard in the dining room, which now served gourmet meals with organic produce grown in a garden a few yards away.

I go to 29 Palms (which is the town just outside the park’s border) to write, to read, to shake myself up a bit and think, or to not think for a while. Somehow, the starkness and dry heat of the desert has a sort of cleansing effect on me.

Inside the park, at a monument called Cap Rock, is the legendary location where Gram Parsons’ body was taken by friends to be burnt after he’d overdosed in room eight of the nearby Joshua Tree Inn. (And yes, I’ve stayed in that room, too.) Over the years, fans have left graffitied tributes to Gram carved into the boulders at Cap Rock. I was there very recently and found only smooth, recently sandblasted rocks, the markings apparently erased by park workers. I’ve seen that before, too, and I know this: The fans will be back.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Psycho Sisters: Horses And Me

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.

Horses

Cowsill: I am a lover of all things nature and animal kingdom. If I had my druthers, I would live in a tree house and never drive a car (in Los Angeles) or go to a large outlet store, or be anywhere where I would have to deal with our current over-populated too-big-for-our-planet’s-britches world! Don’t get me wrong, I love this place; I just can hardly find it anymore! Which rather indirectly brings be to my topic, me and horses. I recently was treated to a weekend of horseback camping trip. A dream I’ve had since I was thrown off the back of a Shetland pony at my childhood home at the tender age of five has been to own my very own horse. The camping trip is as close as I’ve gotten thus far! I have had many pets—I have bonded with many four-legged creatures, but nothing compares to the physical connection I have experienced while riding “with” a horse. I have lived a very chaotic life. I am a slightly high-strung creature myself. So to find the sense of peace, ease and calm confidence I am constantly reaching, searching and praying for in my daily life while on top of this giant, dangerously graceful beast is … poetic … justice? I’m probably not using that phrase as it is intended, but I don’t mind. The horses don’t mind. And Twilley don’t mind. (Couldn’t resist!)

Video after the jump.

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Q&A With The Psycho Sisters

PsychoSisters

I’ve had really good luck interviewing women in a writing career that’s gone on for 25 years. Unlike chatting with men, women seem to get right to the point and don’t waste a lot of time with bullshit. Best of all, their memory for historical and anecdotal detail is particularly admirable. In nearly 1,000 career interviews, some of the very best chats I’ve had have been with such notable female musicians as Grace Slick, Joan Baez, Roni Spector, Marianne Faithfull, Rosanne Cash, Siouxsie Sioux, Emma Pollock, Penelope Houston, Sam Phillips and Barbara Manning. 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.

OK, could I have a vocal ID to compare your voices? I hope you guys don’t have voices of a smiiar timbre.
[In unison] “We do! We do! We do!”

Oh great, that’s exactly what I was afraid of. So, if something gets attributed to someone who didn’t really say it, you’ll understand. Then again we’re not transcribing the Nuremberg War Trials here, so it should be OK.
Vicki: We’ll forgive. We’ll identify ourselves if we’re going to say anything controversial.

I have to tell you, Vicki, I saw you play when you were still called the Bangs, back in early ’82 at the Old Waldorf with Rain Parade and the Three O’Clock in San Francisco. You may have just changed your name.
Vicki: Oh yeah, we just did some reunion shows with those guys. It was fun.

So, you’ve been doing Psycho Sisters for more than 20 years. Why take so long to record your first album?
Vicki: Oh yeah, that.
Susan: Your turn, Vic.
Vicki: Is that unusual? If there’s a reason, it’s probably not a very good one, so the only thing we can say is that this is just the right time for us. We started writing together and did a few shows in the early ’90s and then started falling in love with this band called the Continental Drifters. It was a great musical conglomerate. Originally, we were in L.A., but we all moved to New Orleans, the home of a couple of the members.
Susan: It happens. You get stuck in the swamp. We started thinking more in a Drifterly manner than a Psycho manner. And we had all the time in the world to get back to us.

Hey Susan, gotta tell you that I saw the Cowsills play at the Alameda County Fair in ’07. It was great to actually hear “The Rain, The Park And Other Things” performed live, at last. That’s one of the psychedelic classics. And the other connection I have with both of you is you’re old pals of a friend of mine, Howe Gelb of Giant Sand.
Vicki: Yeah, of course. The Psycho Sisters, sure; we sang on Giant Sand’s Center Of The Universe album and toured with them that winter.

So that was post-John and Joey, was it, the new version of the band?
Unison: No, no, they were still together. They’re all dear friends.

Is Howe still living in Tucson? Last I heard he was living half the year in Denmark with Sophie’s family.
Susan: No, he and Miss Denmark still live in Tucson and have a beautiful family.

Miss Denmark? Right, Sophie, or Sofa, as he calls her. So why did you and Vicki hit it off so well?
Susan: You know, that’s one of those who-knows realities. I often attribute many things to past lives. We had enough in common, I should think. Our musical likes, our ages. You know, for all the reasons you can’t figure out and all the obvious ones, too. Our love of the same kind of music, and we’re both equally insane.

So why the name Psycho Sisters? You both seem pretty level-headed to me.
Vicki: Don’t let the name fool you. We were opening for the Cowsills, but we weren’t a valid entity yet. And a good friend of ours, Bill Bartell, said, “You should be the Psycho Sisters.” We just kind of looked at him. We didn’t know he was referencing the infamous C-movie.

Do you guys remember the Ringling Sisters, the poetry-reading outfit down in L.A.?
Vicki: Of course, Annette (Zilinskas, onetime Bangles bassist) was in that. Yeah, poetry and an almost performance-art kind of thing.

Your song “Never Never Boys” is the best song I’ve heard this year, kind of a companion piece to “September Gurls.”
Vicki: Oh, my gosh, thank you. Oh, how cute. We’ll tell Bob (Cowsill).

What do you get from Psycho Sisters that you don’t get from your other bands?
Susan: All kinds of things. We get to hang out because we live in two different states now. And we’re related now. Vicki is my sister-in-law now. On a musical level, there is something there that is not my solo stuff and not Vicki’s. It’s its own creature. It has to do with just her and me, our thoughts, our own experiences of the two crazy ladies on the hill with the cats.

Most of these songs are from the early days, when you first started doing this?
Vicki: They are. But it’s all cut recently, brand new recordings of old songs. We did headline gigs in clubs as the Psycho Sisters. We didn’t play out a lot. The funny thing was when we listened to our old songs to see which ones we’d record and who sang what, it seemed kind of spooky, because I too can’t tell our voices apart. One thing about us singing together is it seems effortless for us. We can’t explain that other than we have similar backgrounds in our exposure to music. I wasn’t preforming at nine, but I was already writing songs and very alert to pop radio. And Susan was on pop radio. The first Cowsills song Susan performed on, “We Can Fly,” was the first record I bought with my own money.
Susan: Is that right?! How’d I miss that!

That explains why you guys were meant to sing together. Tell me about the photos on the CD. They’re great.
Vicki: The little girl on the front is from the 19th century, and we’re not quite that old. The other photos are of us while we were on tour in Europe with Giant Sand.
Susan: It was otherworldly, playing with those guys. It was another familial experience. It’s a component of our kindred experience. Howe is a good egg.

I really like your songs, about 180 degreees away from that crap they sing on American Idol.
Susan: These songs are written by people with real problems.
Vicki: And written by real people and not a songwriting consortium

Do you guys ever watch American Idol? What do you think of it?
Susan: It takes the purpose of making music, which is to save one’s soul and puts it into a meat market. It’s like, what the fuck? It’s like gladiators
Vicki: It’s just entertaiinment for the masses. It puts music into a circus. It’s not what we do, that’s for sure.

Well, it’s not entertaining me. What was the first time you guys met?
Vicki: Susan and I first met in a club down in Redondo Beach where the Cowsills were playing. My high school band, Those Girls—my sister Debbie on drums and my best friend Amanda on bass—had played there two weeks before. I saw the Cowsills were playing, and I freaked out. I was a huge fan. Susan would never remember me from that night. Susan’s brother Bob became a mentor to us and invited us to a rehearsal.
Susan: I just found those girls annoying in the studio. I’d been living this emancipated life since I was 12, and I didn’t understand girls my age living normal lives. They were in school and went home and ate dinner with people. But my animosity turned to absolute adoration. Several years later, I saw the “Manic Monday” clip on MTV, and I was sitting there going, “Oh my god! It’s those girls from the studio.”

Vicki, you played with the Go-Go’s to replace Charlotte Caffey when she had a baby. How was that?
Vicki: I was dating Jeff MacDonald from Redd Kross, and I became good friends with Charlotte and discussed certain things with her later when Jeff and Charlotte started dating. So I used to say, “Yes, I was touring with the Go-Go’s because Charlotte was pregnant with my ex-boyfriend’s baby.” But they were married at the time.

All right, ladies, on that note, it’s up to me to decipher who said what with your maddeningly similar vocal tones.
[In exact unison, as though they'd rehearsed it earlier, they break into a jazzy vocalese] “Good luck with that, good luck with that, good luck with that … ”

—Jud Cost

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From The Desk Of The Jigsaw Seen: “The Green Hornet”

The co-founder of the Jigsaw Seen 25 years ago (alongside ace guitarist Jonathan Lea), former all-Maryland high-school soccer player Dennis Davison gets his exercise these days as a professional dog-walker. Strolling L.A.’s concrete canyons gives him ample time to do what he does best: write distinctively original lyrics and melodies that give off the mere whiff of former heroes such as the Bee Gees, Who and Love. Unlike previous albums, Old Man Reverb, Jigsaw’s fourth set of originals in the past four years, has a unified sound running throughout. Davison and Lea will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the Jigsaw Seen.

green-hornet

Lea: As a youngster, my two favorite television shows were Batman and The Green Hornet. Everybody’s familiar with the Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, but not as many people remember The Green Hornet, starring Van Williams as publisher Britt Reid and Bruce Lee as his sidekick, Kato. The Green Hornet was produced by the same team as Batman but was less campy, slightly dark and more “sophisticated,”

At the height of The Green Hornet‘s popularity, I wandered off from my sleeping mother on the beach in Santa Monica, only to be found by Van Williams and his wife and taken to a lifeguard station. Being “rescued” by a crimefighter was quite an expreience for a four-year-old (one of my earliest memories). Decades later, I met Adam West in a non-perilous situation, and it just wasn’t the same.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Jigsaw Seen: In Praise Of The Mellotron

The co-founder of the Jigsaw Seen 25 years ago (alongside ace guitarist Jonathan Lea), former all-Maryland high-school soccer player Dennis Davison gets his exercise these days as a professional dog-walker. Strolling L.A.’s concrete canyons gives him ample time to do what he does best: write distinctively original lyrics and melodies that give off the mere whiff of former heroes such as the Bee Gees, Who and Love. Unlike previous albums, Old Man Reverb, Jigsaw’s fourth set of originals in the past four years, has a unified sound running throughout. Davison and Lea will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the Jigsaw Seen.

mellow

Davison: Even since I knew of its existence, I wanted a mellotron. It’s a warbly, imperfect orchestra in a box. A few years ago, I purchased one. They’re now made in Sweden and also incorporate the sound of its American cousin, the Chamberlin.

The modern mellotrons look exactly like the old ones from the ’60s.

I have a new digital version, which means that it doesn’t break down every time you try to move it. The temptation is to use it on everything! Don’t let me. I need to be stopped.

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