Thursday, January 3, 2019

Nancy Neon’s Notes: THE JACKETS’ Jack, Schmidi, and Chris Reveal the Spark That Fires Their Sound

Text by Nancy Neon / FFanzeen, Jan 2019
Images from the Internet

Kenne Highland of The Gizmos and The Boston Groupie News' Editor-at-Large explains what sets The Jackets apart from the current barrage of garage rock bands: he describes them as having "the gymnastics of the Monterey Pop era Who and Love It To Death Alice Cooper spider eyeliner, while playing The Kinks at Kelvin Hall feedback-inducing solos while crowd surfing." My introduction to The Jackets came with "Wasting My Time," 3 minutes and 53 seconds of pure Dionysian frenzy.

The band is based in Bern, Switzerland. The lineup is Jack Torera aka Jackie Bruschte on guitar and lead vocals, Samuel "Schmidi" Schmidiger on bass and vocals, and Chris Rosales, from Southern California, on drums and vocals. Jack’s and Schmidi's vocal interplay is distinctive, adding an extra layer of interest to the band's vocal arrangements. At the Cambridge, MA show, October 5, 2018, Torera's vocals were described by Jeff Kabot of The Superkools and The Downtowners as a "grittier Chrissie Hynde" or in a "Grace Slick mode.” As Michael Passman, garage maven and photographer in Austin, TX, remarked "Jack can scream!" Torera mixes up a potent elixir of rhythm and lead guitar prowess that hooks the fans. She is constantly in motion, kicking, gesticulating wildly, and even executing arabesques like a garage rock prima ballerina.

The Jackets 'songs are rebellious and defiant-Youthquaker anthems of autonomy. The Jackets cite their influences as The Music Machine, The Monks, and The MC5. The trio does deliver a kick out the jams level of impact, mixing ‘60s punk with ‘70s punk into a potent, irresistible, and addictive cocktail. I have never seen such a fierce band that is also full of good humor, high spirited fun, and full blast excitement. .No band has ever answered the "Where Have All The Good Times Gone" question so definitively-The good times are here and now with The Jackets.

Torera has a magnetic presence and binds the crowd together and pulls them into a tribal dance like a shaman. John Keegan, writer and photographer of The Boston Groupie News counted the show's highlights as "Keep Yourself Alive," "Hands Off Me," and "Freak Out.” For me, it was my first and favorite: the wild, frenetic "Wasting My Time,” the angry admonition to a bad boyfriend, "Hang Up,” the exhilarating "Don't Turn Yourself In,” and the autonomy anthem delivered as a pure punk assault, “Be Myself."

Michael Passman describes The Jackets as "raw fuzz like The Cynics, but loud like Billy Childish"(who helped make Toe Rag studios in London famous). Passman adds, "The Jackets’ record label, Voodoo Rhythm, is the best label as far as great bands go, including Jackets’ friends and tour mates, The Darts."

It has been two weeks since The Jackets show and I am still asking myself " Why did the band make me feel like a wild, uninhibited teenager again, and what made seeing The Jackets like hearing rock 'n' roll for the first time? " Mike Stax of The Loons and Ugly Things magazine responded, "The Jackets strip rock 'n' roll down to its basic, essential components. Then they build something fresh, something that is unique to their personalities and need for self-expression. It feels new because it is unique and free of cliché and gimmickry"

The Jackets’ drummer, Chris Rosales, explains the rock'n'roll kinship that brought together: The Jackets, with The Loons and The Darts with whom they toured and who helped bring The Jackets to the US,” of which Rosales says, "The connection is good ole rock and roll. As far as my connection with Mike Stax, I first met Mike when I was a regular at Greg Shaw's Cavern Club in the ‘80s. As for The Darts, we met in France a few years ago. Nicole Laurenne invited us to tour with The Darts and we just did it. Then there is the ”Little Steven Underground Garage” connection. So put that all in a pot and stir it vigorously, and that is how The Jackets came to the USA.

When asked what it was like to tour with The Jackets, Nicole, The Darts' singer, who was also brilliant and a personal fave in The Love Me Nots and Motobunny, said "Touring with the Jackets is the most comfortable, easy tour we've done to date. They are not only top-notch musicians but sweet and genuine people with a strong work ethic. They love Indian food as much as we do. We miss them so much. We know they burned Boston right to the ground." Buy The Jackets records, but absolutely do not miss experiencing them live because just as Kabot says, "Just when you thought it had all been done with three chord garage rock, The Jackets have not just reinvented it, they own it!.”

Jack Torera (guitar, vocals);"Schmidi" Schmidiger (bass);Chris Rosales (drums)  
Nancy Neon: Who or what made you want to be a singer?
Jack Torera: It was more of an accident when a friend convinced me to join their punk band when I was 19 to play guitar and sing. Shortly after that, we had a gig and it was like an explosion for me. There was this wild, raw thing that came out of me onstage that I didn't know before.

Nancy: And who influenced your vocal style?
Jack: Playing in many bands and many concerts over the years. I never had an idol or a certain style I wanted to achieve. I just do what I do in my own way and that is good.

Nancy: What artist or songwriter made you want to create your own songs?
Jack: Not a specific artist or songwriter. It was more the DIY movement and the culture from ‘60s garage punk bands... the idea that "everybody can play music" as long as it is authentic and direct from the heart. I always wanted to play my own songs. For me, that is what makes a band a real band.

Nancy: What songwriters made the most positive impact on your writing style?
Jack: A great inspiration for songwriting is Arthur Lee of Love and Sean Bonniwell of The Music Machine. I never get bored of their songs because they are varied which I like, and always sound authentic.

Nancy: Which musicians inspired you to play music?
Samuel "Schmidi" Schmidiger: I am originally a guitar player. My main guitar influences are Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, and Reverend Beat Man[Reverend Beat Man and his band The Monsters are The Jackets’ label mates on Voodoo Rhythm Records - NN]

Nancy: What bass players do you admire?
Schmidi: John Entwistle of The Who definitely inspired me as a bass player. I admire Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Robert Butler of The Untold Fables and Miracle Workers that introduced me to the world of Mosrite basses.

Nancy: How did you get your start as a drummer?
Chris Rosales: I started playing in my garage in the ‘80s. I had a record player next to my drum set turned up to the highest volume on one of those ‘70s portable record players. I would play along to The Seeds and The Doors because I was into the ‘60s garage rock revival of the ‘80s. The Seeds' drummer, Rick Andridge, had a very basic style that was easy to copy, like the beat on "Can't Seem To Make You Mine." From The Doors' drummer, John Densmore, I learned the Bossa Nova and single and double stroke drum rolls. The Sonics' drummer, Bob Bennett had a huge influence on me with the way he played that bass drum. But it was probably Ringo Starr, Mickey Dolenz, and my Dad – who was a jazz drummer in the late ‘50s – who influenced me aesthetically to want to sit behind a band and play drums.

Nancy: The Loons and The Darts helped bring The Jackets to the US. You are also tight with The Woogles and have recently toured with them. How did you get hooked up with The Woogles?
Chris: I met The Woogles in the early 2000s in Switzerland when I was playing in the Get Lost with members of The Miracle Workers [The Miracle Workers had their debut album, Inside Out on Bomp! Records and were based in Portland, OR and in Los Angeles, CA – NN] The Get Lost played a few gigs with The Woogles and we hit it off. I also got to know their drummer, Dan Electro while I was producing a podcast in the 2000's on the network where he was also a podcaster.

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