HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
GHOSTWRITER, THE CONVERTERS, THE MOOD KILLERS, and THE HEART THORNS
Let Them Eat Lead-02/04
The same night I heard about the accident, I also saw a local performer by the name of Steve Schecter, playing under the name of Ghostwriter, hammer out a set of old school folk nasties at a local bar. After his set, I immediately asked if he could play the bill, while at the same time securing my friend Jeremy Terry’s band to fill in for the Kodiaks, solidifying a “Ghostwriter/The Converters/The Mood Killers/The Heart Thorns” lineup... a goddamn murderous combination of roots-based rock and punk, and an occasion unto itself.
The show kicked off around ten, when Steve got on stage and his check snowballed into the performance itself, which took me by surprise.
Every time I see this guy play, I find myself looking around for other people. Sadly, I find myself irritated during Steve’s sets by the fact that there aren’t more people there to see him play. But no matter the crowd’s number, Ghostwriter always delivers a performance that stabs past your nostrils and into your brain like fumes off a burning car battery, and inebriates your senses. Even the performances Steve will modestly discard as unenergetic tend to leave me feeling dizzy and barely aware of where I’m standing.
As the one-man pack of rabid junkyard hounds known as The Ghostwriter, Schecter viciously evokes a burning gothic American imagery that condemns Joni Mitchell as the folk equivalent of Avril Lavigne. While many fans of contemporary folk who’ve endured Steve’s act would quickly dismiss him as a radical departure from the modern folk musician’s style, anybody who’s in the know sees Steve’s urgent nihilism as a return to the very roots of folk, country, and blues. Folk wasn’t always some quiet, inoffensive genre reserved for PC banner waving or political demonstrations, as the sixties have lead so many to believe.
Steve rings this country’s true imagery from the postcard impression of majestic mountains and bustling metropolises so many perceive our country at large to represent. Traveling this country by rail assures all fear of a track’s wrong side, passing through landfills, burning tire yards, and crop fields as pungent as they are endless... much of our country is so vacant that a day or two on the road can even inspire madness through a common hypnotic visual drone of endless flatland and the repetition of road stop chains. Ghostwriter’s high-strung momentum inspires cinematic shots of a fella’s white knuckles shining through pitch and grease in some shit-rusted motor hustling trap with his life packed all the way up against the back windshield, all while cursing that bitch who seasoned his reputation and passed out samples on every degenerate corner she haunts. His imagery is bleak, while the mood borders on post-apocalyptic.
The raw emotional power of Steve’s writing is enveloped in a certain elegance, though - as a player he is a technical oddity, harkening back to the fluency of early American blue grass picking, with racy chords that nearly come off sounding like chamber music.
Every band down here who purportedly plays “punk” music should actively seek out Ghostwriter performances, and try to learn a little something from this man. He plays at an emotional depth that basically spawned the genre. He isn’t following any particular fashion or trend... he just plays at a level of arresting emotion and feeling, unlike most of Austin’s “punk” community. Steve Schecter is probably the most punk rock motherfucker in this town right now.
Schecter, poetically enough, is originally from a town called Friend, in Oregon. After moving to the suburbs of Portland, he met Jeremy Terry (Heart Thorns/Miss Rae & The Royal Family), formed a band and was gigging by age 16. By 19, Steve had moved to Austin and had formed the two-piece band Billy Swamp, playing such notable local clubs as The Black Cat, The Split Rail, and The Blue Flamingo. Billy Swamp called it quits by the end of 1996. Sometime in 1997, Steve formed The American Standards, later cropped down to The Standards. With member Dana Shepard, the Standards endured numerous lineup changes until 2000, when Jeremy Terry arrived in Austin and took up bass with the band. By 2001, the band pared down to a trio and End of the West was formed, featuring Schecter, Shepard, and Terry. By 2002 though, End of the West disbanded, and Steve was writing and performing as Ghostwriter. The lack of stress compared to maintaining a band was invigorating, while the ability to travel more freely also provided more opportunities for Schecter, including an appearance at Sleazefest and a tour with garage legend and Ghostwriter fan Dexter Romweber.
This is an act that everybody in this town could benefit from seeing, so I encourage everyone to take in one of his performances. If you’re interested in checking out Steve’s recordings, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Steve’s 2002 release, As I Go Alone (Songs Of Love & Significance) is a little sterile in comparison to his live performance, though word is that his latest recordings are an improvement over the last release.
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