This feature appeared in Huffington Post, August 2015.

Edward Rogers: "We've known each other for a long, long time...twenty years."

J-F Vergel: "What! That long? Really?"

Edward Rogers: "Absolutely. I met J-F when he was in the band Rogue's March. He was a friendly cat, we immediately hit it off. J-F and I shared a musical bond, a little bit more so than the other members. So, it all started when we'd run into each other. And I remember at one point he asked me to put some words to music that he had written..."

J-F Vergel: "No, no, no, here's what happened - I was the Apollo Theater to see what's his name?"

Edward Rogers: "Paul Weller."

J-F Vergel: "Right. So, out of the corner of my eye I spot Ed and his wife about two rows down from where I was sitting. And it was really weird because I had been thinking about him, even though I hadn't been playing for a long time. We chatted and I said to Ed, "I got a bunch of songs, do you want to put words to them?" And he agreed. I sent him a couple of tunes...I can't remember how many."

Edward Rogers: "You sent me three tracks..."

J-F Vergel: "No. Was it that many?"

Edward Rogers: "Yes. Now, I take writing assignments very seriously, especially from musicians I respect...

J-F Vergel: "Oh and Ed says 'I'll have them to you in a week!' And he sends me something two days later. Two days! So now it becomes a race! I didn't want Ed to get ahead of me."

Edward Rogers: "Hey man, I got three hundred and sixty pages of lyrics that I've written in the last ten years!"

J-F Vergel: "Ah, so that's how you did it so fast! Damn!"

John and Paul. Mick and Keith. Pete and Roger. Tyler, Perry. Axl, Slash. Page, Plant. Noel, Liam. Ray and Dave. To my ears, the best rock 'n' roll, regardless of its generational bent, is oft borne of odd couples. The Vagabond Hearts are no exception. A fresh, underground New York City super-group of sorts, the Vagabond Hearts are helmed by two veritable veterans of the local music scene: guitarist, songwriter J-F Vergel and singer, songwriter, recording artist Edward Rogers. Rogers, the well-tempered, well-organized British ex-patriot emerges as a stark contrast to Vergel, the street-wise, shoot-from-the-lip New Yorker. Naturally, they're a perfect fit.


To extract a linear history of the Vagabond Hearts is nearly impossible, as evidenced in the above documented conversation. Not that it matters. As far as they recall, their first performance occurred at the home of May Pang - the jam sessions held at her soirees are legendary. "I had no idea what I was doing, and I was the one calling out the chord changes to the bass player" laughs Vergel. "Oh it was great, everyone loved it," counters Ed. "We knew we had to take it further."

The Vagabonds' modus operandi is to work fast and grab the best players whenever possible and wherever available. I caught one of their early gigs with JD Foster in the bass chair at the Bowery Electric. With lead sheets and cheat sheets flying off the bandstand, Rogers and Vergel ripped through their repertoire with a reckless abandon that required years and years of experience in the rock 'n' roll trenches to perfect. Foster even regaled me with tales of his time working with Ronnie Lane while he and the Hearts' performance was in progress - now you get the picture?

Recorded in two days, the Vagabond Hearts official bow is a five track EP aptly dubbed Two Jokers In a Pack - a title which arrived at the suggestion of Vergel's significant other. "It's a line from the song 'Reckless' -my wife loves that track, and she says that lyric perfectly describes Ed and I."

With the only stipulation being that sessions take place during the daytime as J-F prefers to sleep at night, the Vagabond Hearts roster on Two Jokers includes guitarist/producer Don Piper, bassist Sal Maida, drummer/percussionist Boris Kinberg, keyboardist Matt Trowbridge, backing vocalists Tish & Snooky, and horn player Wayne Cobham.

Rather than reference each player's laudable credits, their collective body of work includes albums, sessions, and concert performances with Willy DeVille, The Brandos, Roxy Music, The Sparks, Cracker, Ray Charles, Billy Cobham, Ben E. King, Michael Jackson, Wilson Pickett, and Blondie, to cite a very select few. Track selection for the EP was a no brainer.

Edward Rogers: "We whittled it down from twenty songs...."

J-F Vergel: "We whittled it down from seven or eight songs..."

Edward Rogers: "We recorded the first five songs we wrote together..."

J-F Vergel: "We worked with songs that sound similar..."

Edward Rogers: "The whole idea is that with these five songs there is a varying degree in styles..."


Waxed in a single vocal take, Rogers likens his croon on the jangle-pop opening track "Autumn Sun" to Monkee Davey Jones' rendition of the Harry Nilsson penned gem "Cuddly Toy." Vergel assumes the mighty guitar mantle of Mick Ronson for the defining motif of "Angel Share" - a title which the singer pinched from a Scottish film which he and J-F were familiar with and which refers to a potent whiskey distillation residue. "It gives a very surreal meaning to the's a clever wham, bam, thank-you-ma'am track" explains Ed. Maida and Kinberg set a slammin' swing groove to "Bridge of Sighs" wherein Vergel's melodies punctuate the vocal triumvirate of Ed, Tish & Snooky. And Mr. Cobham's trumpet lines on the ballad "Age of Reason" abet J-F's acoustic finger-picking and Rogers' sentimental delivery rather poignantly.

The Vagabond Hearts' current game plan is to put out music when the time is right - whenever that may be. Additional gigs in New York City will certainly transpire. As the record industry tries to sort itself out, the Vagabond Hearts will no doubt persevere regardless of how the masses consume music.

J-F Vergel: "We have a great relationship, it's like being on Tin Pan Alley - we have a lot of songs, I don't think we can use all of them, but they may be good for other artists. I like doing new things that I have not heard - it's too easy to repeat yourself. My influences push Ed to places he's never been..."

Edward Rogers: "The whole interesting thing about us writing together is that we'll try different styles of music. I try to adapt as much as I can and J-F leads me in as much as he can...and that's what a true collaboration is."

Two Jokers In a Pack by the Vagabond Hearts is available now at Bandcamp .Com - www.vagabondhearts . bandcamp . com. You can also follow the Vagabond Hearts on Facebook. Com.


Linda Hoyle
Linda Hoyle

This feature appeared in Huffington Post August 2015

"I never expected it to be a 'future.' It was just something I was doing then. I thought it to be a contained and time limited event. But it has sort of developed a life of its own. It's as if the event has become its own thing - and it evolved without me having to be around! I think it's like writing any history; when you're actually in the battle, you don't see the structure of the maneuvers going on. You can only look back later and see how this was fitting together. And it's only in retrospect that I've become to get a grip on where we might have fitted. The whole band was out of a jazz background, and we just did what we knew. We formed a rock band, but what we knew was jazz. Affinity threw everything into the pot. The musicians that we met at Ronnie Scott's were extremely sympathetic and very helpful and we learned an enormous amount from them. Gosh, we were lucky!" Linda Hoyle

"At the end of the 60s an exciting new hybrid music form, 'Jazz/Rock', was evolving. Musicians such as Miles Davis, Brian Auger, Jimi Hendrix, and bands such as Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Cream, Chicago, Lifetime, and Colosseum were all experimenting with the blending of jazz improvisation and the power of rock rhythms. This liberating and exciting approach suited Affinity perfectly since it would separate the band from other contemporary outfits such as Yes, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Family, and Humble Pie." Mo Foster from his book British Rock Guitar (2013)

Linda Hoyle 2

When I mention the name Affinity and Linda Hoyle's debut solo album Pieces of Me(1971) to record collectors, jazz-rock aficionados, and knowledgeable musicians young, old, and in-between - a nod of reverence usually follows. Managed by Ronnie Scott, owner of the iconic Soho, London jazz venue which carries his name, Affinity was a fixture on the swinging London discotheque club scene and European festival circuit in the late 1960s.

Linda Hoyle 3
Linda Hoyle 3

The jazz stars whom they supported and witnessed at Ronnie Scott's -including Stan Getz, Gary Burton, Elvin Jones, Roland Kirk, Miles Davis, and Larry Coryell among others - were impressed by Affinity's fusion of influences ranging from jazz, soul, rhythm & blues, classical, bluegrass, and rock. If you don't know Affinity, Ms. Hoyle highly advises that you seek out her friend Annie Nightingale's BBC documentary on the band in all its groovy glory.

And though the canon of many niche artists fades over time, folks with an affinity for the collective work of singer/songwriter Linda Hoyle, bassist/composer Mo Foster and the extraordinary cast of Affinity players including Lynton Naff, Mike Jobb, and Grant Serpell continues to grow. Oft times when I traverse the creative neighborhoods in American cities such as Cincinnati, Denver, Pittsburgh, and my hometown hipster enclaves in the East Village and Brooklyn, I hear Affinity tracks from their 1970 self-titled release (which Angel Air Records has re-issued with a generous helping of bonus cuts) in the cafes and shops. It's as if the band were still around.

Linda departed Affinity in 1971 and waxed her aforementioned album - which fetched quite a bit in collectors' circles over time until the Angel Air reissue years later. In 1972 or thereabouts, Linda migrated to Canada and performed in jazz clubs before embarking on a highly successful career as an art therapist, helping to found the Ontario Art Therapy Association. An acclaimed author, composer, producer, educator, and lecturer; Mo Foster's body of work as a bassist on stage and in the studio is legend.

Now, a mere forty-four years later, Linda Hoyle follows Pieces of Me with a new studio album entitled The Fetch. With lyrics described as "autobiographical, witty, and dark" - Affinity fans spanning generations will surely be overjoyed. It's as if Linda never left...

The story of The Fetch sort of commenced back in 2006. At a birthday party for an old friend of Linda and Affinity, the band re-united for an informal performance. "It was like falling off a log" laughs Linda. "We hadn't played together in all those years...God we had a good time!" Inspired by the occasion and another Affinity reunion at Sussex University in 2011, Linda and Mo decided to work together once again. Linda's initial inclination was to render an album of standards. As she notes in her liner libretto "at first the Great American Songbook beckoned with a bony finger and came close to setting me in a deadly safe place." However it was decided that composing and recording fresh material was the way to go. "Choosing invention over interpretation...I landed myself with two years of hard labor...Scott Walker is a role model here - 'make it tough, make it count!"

Linda's two main collaborators for The Fetch were Mo Foster, based in the UK, and guitarist, composer, recording artist Oliver Whitehead in Canada, the latter of whom Ms. Hoyle has been working with since 1984. Among other stimuli, Linda drew inspiration from her first solo record and the Alan Lomax Collection of archival recordings.

She recalls, "I started in a place where I left off for Pieces of Me, which was an appreciation of what came before. There are a couple of old things on that album, and I struggled, because I hadn't thought about writing material at that point. Most of the time I've worked over here in Canada with Oliver. He is a classical composer, and he has been putting music to existing words for years. Then I got into and did a lot of work on an Alan Lomax prison song recording with my nephew in England. We tried to break apart 'Early in the Morning' which was recorded in the mid-1940s. It's absolutely incredible, I want to praise where all this stuff came from. So much of our modern and popular music is based on this - you can hear everything in it, I don't know how much young musicians listen to these Lomax recordings. The point is the material itself - if you just focus on it - it is stunning! So I wanted to do a very modern version of this stuff and I tried, but it didn't work. I thought 'what is it I am trying to do here?

Then I did a version of 'Come On in My Kitchen' which is an old Robert Johnson number - and I got Oliver to bring this incredible little old valve amp and use a metal string guitar and I said 'I want you to play it like I've come around the corner and you're sitting on a stoop!' And we did that in the studio, and I was going to put it on the album. I did not use it - but that's when Oliver and I took off - I had an idea and I could kind of feel it in my gut - and Oliver said 'why don't I just write you something?' Well with Mo, he sends me music and then I have to put words to it - so I said why don't I send you the words, and you put music to it!"

By way trans-Atlantic file sharing and sessions in Canada and the UK, The Fetch was recorded start to finish between February 2013 and August 2014. Hoyle, Foster, and Whitehead were complimented by a stellar cast of players including Corrina Silvester, Ray Russell, Gary Husband, Nick Nicholas, Dougie Boyle, BJ Cole, Peter Van Hooke, Chris Haigh, Jim Watson, Julian Littman, Chris Biscoe, and Bill Worrall.

Linda compares the structure of The Fetch to a "book of reminiscence" with the title track serving as a table of contents. References to each song are included in the verse. "Embedded is a memory, an event, a desire from my past, sometimes expressed with cynicism or innocence..."

Progressive rock fans will revel in the album art as rendered by another old friend of Linda and Mo - Roger Dean, renowned for the cosmic images which adorn many Yes albums, among other artists from the golden age of vinyl. Hoyle regrets not using Roger for the Affinity album - which, as she reveals, depicts a model, and not her on the cover. "Oh no that's not me! We were touring somewhere and they had to use somebody that looked like me. That's why her hair is hanging in her face."

After a nostalgic reunion at an exhibition, Dean asked Linda to describe the record to him - which is his usual modus operandi as opposed to actually listening to the music. "So I explained The Fetch to him over a cup of tea...and he said "send me the record!" Continuing her laughter, Linda emphasizes "what he is trying to evoke is the sense of this ghostlike effect which is this strange creature that you project yourself into...the color is intense!"

Mo, who proudly displays Affinity posters in London home ("he's never thrown anything away!" chortles Linda) knows best. "It's one of those albums that had to be made -- simply because it's a little piece of art. Forty-three years is a long gap between albums, but this project has surprised both of us by its beauty and originality."

Ruminating on her journey from Affinity to The Fetch, Linda relates: It still amazes me that I might have anything like that to give to people. I just don't know how this is going to work. I think it's going to float off into the world. In the last song on the album 'Acknowledgments' I sing 'a music footnote I shall remain..." And I do have that feeling about myself - and I don't mind at all. The fact that I can do this at all again is amazing..."

Linda Hoyle, The Fetch is available 7 August 2015 on Angel Air Records.


The Ancients
The Ancients

This feature appeared in Huffington Post July 2015

"Joey Ramone had an infatuation with The Ancients, which took me by surprise! Why would a punk rock legend have any sort of affection for what we did? But getting to know Joey as I did, I think the best I could tell was that Joey always wanted to be a crooner. He admired the way I sang, my voice, my delivery. I guess that's what kind of drew him to the band. And I'm still very flattered by that. And he eventually became kind a crooner, especially on his later songs - which brought a smile to my face because I knew he had it in him!" Fred Schreck

Though we may have crossed paths as musicians on the same stages and studios sometime in New York City in the 1980s, my first official awareness of singer, songwriter, recording artist Fred Schreck was by way of John Ashton's Satellite Paradiso - whom I interviewed (February 2014) upon the release of their brilliant self-titled debut.

Fred's work with the former Psychedelic Furs guitarist is, in a word, extraordinary. If you dig heavy experimental rock with massive pop hooks and matchless musicianship- for lack of a better description - I highly advise that you seek out their first and only official release (as of this writing) which also features bassists Gail Ann Dorsey and Sara Lee, drummers Frank Coleman and Paul Garisto, saxophonists Mars Williams and Duncan Kilburn, cellists Jo Quail and Jane Scarpantoni, and guitarist Cheetah Chrome, among others.

As we communicate via social media, whenever Fred posts a missive I read it, listen to it, and/or share it. One morning Fred posted a track by his band The Ancients - an ensemble which I was unacquainted with.

When I heard the track, my immediate reaction was one of... joy! I revel when artists of a certain age make music that moves forward rather than replicates the past, as so many often do whether they are aware of it or not. Fred's post took me back to the moment I first heard David Bowie's Low album, which was co-produced by Tony Visconti, on the day it appeared in the Sam Goody bins in January 1977. When my friends and I dropped the needle on side one song one on that freezing winter day - we didn't know what we were hearing: new sounds, new grooves; a new way of arranging music as a collage that somehow coalesced into a single burst of energy. We loved it. And we tried our best to make music like it. In those days, we expected recording artists and their producers to blow our minds. The Ancients blew my mind. So, I congratulated Fred on his new music and asked for additional info so we could talk about it. Like Bowie and Satellite Paradiso, Fred was making music that matters in the present tense.

However akin to his Paradiso pals Ashton and Coleman, Mr. Schreck has a refreshingly dry sense of humor. When he responded that this "new" album entitled Mind- a collaboration with composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist Morgan Visconti - was actually recorded two decades ago, I shrugged it off as one of his customary jibes. I worked as a bass player in recording studios and bands in those days and earlier -and tracks such as "Circa 1977" did not sound like that circa 1993 with regard to the mix and the arrangement - just to being with. To my ears The Ancients would have knocked Trent Reznor down a notch or two or three had this record dropped in the alternative rock era when NIN was all the rage. When I received the official Ancients press release which proved fact to what I thought was fiction, I demanded answers from Messrs. Schreck and Visconti!

Testifies Schreck: "The Ancients were conceived as sort of a solo project for me. I was in a band that was pretty popular in the New York City music scene in the late 1980s called Shoot the Doctor. We'd gotten a certain amount of notoriety though we failed to get that 'big record deal' which was the goal of every band in those years. The frustration of not getting the prize made some cracks surface within the band. Along comes Rob Sacher -who at that time was the manager of a club called Mission which was a pretty popular hangout for people who liked Goth and industrial alternative rock. He approached me one time at a gig, invited me down to the club to talk, and I think he initially wanted to guide along and help my former band - in the end we decided it was best for me to break off and take some of the songs that I'd written and think of them in a new way. That's how the first Ancients album came about."

Among Schreck's associates for that first album was Morgan Visconti. Recalls Fred "Morgan was about eighteen years old, fresh from England and living in the city for the first time. He was being a bit of a bad boy, hanging out in clubs such as Mission. Rob plied him with drinks and asked him to take a shot and produce one of my songs." The track "Release Me" emerged as the most recognizable cut on the record. As such Schreck and Visconti struck up a friendship, with Morgan joining The Ancients live line-up. "I knew that Morgan was destined for other things. I knew that eventually he was going to make a name for himself..."

Sessions for Mind commenced in the summer of 1993 at Morgan's Manhattan studio. Visconti notes "We worked fast and furious during available hours, mostly nights and weekends as I was writing and recording music for television during regular office hours. Our inspirations although not very specific, included King Crimson, Killing Joke, Bowie, even Peter Gabriel and Genesis at some points - that combined with what we were absorbing at the time - Soundgarden , Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails. We didn't want to emulate a 1990's sound but we couldn't help putting a bit of grunge on here and there." Among the players who contributed to Mind included Schreck's former Crush bandmate Paul Ferguson (Killing Joke), his former Shoot the Doctor mates and guitarists Albert Zampino and Dave Tsien; drummer John Socha; guitarist Chris Sokolewicz; and singers Diva Gray and Robin Clark who had also backed David Bowie on "Young Americans."

With regard to the striking relevance of Mind in the year 2015, Visconti theorizes. "It's harder and harder to sound 'this year' as things change so quickly. But music is also cyclical, 'the 1980's strikes back' may have just expired and maybe now is the time for the return of the 1990s! I think that because our influences were outside the box of the 90s, it never really congealed as a 90s record. We didn't want to be those Seattle bands, I guess we existed in our own bubble."

Schreck agrees. "The other explanation could be that at least lyrically, I tend to stay away from topical subjects. I think on one song I sing 'turn the dial' - which even then was antiquated. Morgan did such a great job producing. In the end what sounds good will always sound good!"

Among The Ancients' admirers was Morgan's dad, the aforementioned legendary producer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist whose list of Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame worthy credits include timeless recordings by David Bowie, Thin Lizzy, T. Rex, Sparks, and Morrissey to cite a very select few.

"I remember Tony being a proud dad when I played him my mixes" states Morgan. "But being a stubborn twenty- something, I was too cool to ask for further advice or help both musical and industry wise, which is something I regret now looking back. I was wary of nepotism. I wanted to blaze my own trail and all that. He's always a very honest, no-bullshit critic of mine but I sensed that he thought I was doing all the right things in the studio. I remember he came to several of our shows and enjoyed them too."

Consequently Mind was never released in its time. Schreck and Visconti's personal and professional lives went in decidedly different directions. However they remained comrades, and Mind had always been on their minds.

Schreck: "Five years later, we'd talk and say 'this stuff is great, we gotta do something with it ...ten years later, fifteen years later....same conversation!"

Morgan: "For some reason, now in 2015 it was clear. We've just gotta do it."

The Ancients Mind on the Human imprint is currently available on iTunes and Amazon.