Garage Chic

The Hypno-Twists put a fresh spin on retro-instrumental voodoo with a wicked new CD

While it's Texas billionaire David Bonderman's prerogative to pay the Rolling Stones nearly $7 million to play a 40-minute set at his birthday bash, you've got to wonder what real "Satisfaction" he derives from the exchange. Does he imagine the Stones having a preshow huddle in his honor, collectively deciding, "Look, the ol' man's coughing up a lot of dough and he wants to hear Jumping Jack Flash' so let's not phone it in tonight for a change. And Keef, save the Jack Daniel's for after the show, m'kay?" Of course not! They barreled through the same set of fossilized monuments as if this were a gig at the old Anaheim Stadium, not a private party.

So the rich get richer and the poorer get, er, rawer. Sixties garage bands that didn't strike it rich following the Stones into fuzz-pedal territory are now turning out the best shows of their careers on the other side of 50. There's Sky Saxon pushing too hard with a new set of Seeds, Arthur Lee fresh out of jail with re-re-revisited Love, the reconstituted Electric Prunes, Sean Bonniwell's Music Machine, and the Chocolate Watchband. They're all coming out of retirement and all playing as if their lives -- or a month's rent -- depend on it.

These pioneers of punk have another thing in common: They're all buddies with the Hypno-Twists, Phoenix's premium outlet for Nuggets-style punk, spaghetti Western boleros, Latin mambos, snake-charming ragas and psychedelia.

"Incense and Peppermints" it ain't: The Hypno-Twists play a twangier brand of garage rock.
Kevin Scanlon
"Incense and Peppermints" it ain't: The Hypno-Twists play a twangier brand of garage rock.
Retro hip rules the world of the ultragroovy Twists.
Kevin Scanlon
Retro hip rules the world of the ultragroovy Twists.

Details

Play every Wednesday night. The show is free. Call 602-256-9705 for more information.
Emerald Lounge, 1414 North Seventh Avenue

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"We [recently] opened for the Seeds," says a clearly geeked Jelly Roll Joel, the Hypnos' guitarist, who followed Sky Saxon all around the Nita's Hideaway parking lot in Tempe for 45 minutes waiting for the Seeds' singer to relinquish the Sharpie and finish autographing his Seeds album sleeve. "We'd seen Sky back in '89 and he was much more coherent this time around. Not so rambling and insane talking about channeling the ghost of Jim Morrison."

The five-piece Hypno-Twists just celebrated their two-year anniversary as a band, and over that time they've become among the city's only good excuses to get trashed on a Wednesday. The band, whose members are in their late 20s and early 30s, continues the musical voodoo with Wicked Eye, its second album, filled with instrumental covers and vertigo-inspired originals.

"A lot of the retro-'60s bands nowadays are very one-dimensional," complains Joel. "They'll do a song that sounds like Satisfaction' and every other song they play sounds the same way. Or a lot of bands will just do surf instrumentals, or they just do lounge. We want to do all that stuff."

It must be a pain for a band as musically eclectic as the Hypno-Twists to rehearse in a band room facility in southern Phoenix that caters to only one very bad, very loud strand of rock. "I don't know where all these heavy metal bands gig," wonders Joel. "I think many of 'em just play here." It's almost a living museum of what the Arizona music scene was like in the early '90s, when Joel and Hypno-drummer Philthy Phil were toiling in Cruel Daddy Doom and the Hemlocks.

"We actually had a pretty good Phoenix following. All the punk rock kids liked us a lot but very few other people got it all," adds Phil, who switched over from guitar to drums at the Hypnos' inception.

"The music was pretty much what we do now, only much more," recalls Joel. "A bit more vague, more psyche. It was rawer because we weren't as good playing so we ended up sounding more juvenile, I guess. And we never had an organist 'cause we could never find one."

Enter Vox vixen Tula Storm, who had never played in a band before. "I used to teach comp[arative literature] at ASU . . . in another life," she trails off with a laugh. "I'd been in school for so long I finished with my master's degree and felt there was something else out there." Storm soon hooked up with another closet musician, horn player Jimmy Vespa, who confesses, "I'd never really played in bands. I just collected records." One particularly suspect LP was responsible for the group's hyphenated name.

"We took the name from a '60s fitness record," says Vespa, laughing. "When you flipped the cover over, it said Hypno-twist.' It had the whirl pattern and a place for your feet; you stand on it, you put the feet together and you twist." Ironically, that's about as much room as most Hypno fans have to dance on their weekly Wednesday night gigs at the Emerald Lounge, at Seventh Avenue and McDowell.

Eventually, they were joined by bassist El Tato, who played in Joel's snooty side project the Jazz Core Trio, and by Bobby Lava. Although the band hasn't made any announcements, Lava recently left the Hypnos to devote full attention to his other band Killbot (see the story on page 94), as well as a third band, Kongo Shock. The group has had a busy month of gigging to recover from the missing-man syndrome. The loss of Lava's leads has given the band a more primal sound, with Storm's organ cutting through the din most of all. And Vespa's happy because he now has the luxury of taking two steps instead of one when he blows his trumpet on the Emerald's cramped stage!

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