Although San Francisco is only 90-minutes down the I-80 highway, the Sacramento music scene of the mid-70s was a rather dull affair. Arena-rock and tired country ruled the airwaves and aspiring local bands headed to the greener and rowdier pastures of the Bay Area or Hollywood. Though Lux Interior of the Cramps met his wife and bandmate Ivy Rorschach in the Californian capital, the story goes that they decided to move out after a Lou Reed show that they were excited about seeing was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.
It was in this rather lackluster cultural environment that psychedelic pop garage band the Twinkeyz formed in 1977. Inspired by the Pink Fairies, Velvet Underground, and Thirteenth Floor Elevators, the band produced slightly skewed songs with twisted pop hooks and noisy effects.
Led by vocalist and songwriter, Donnie Jupiter the four-piece, wrote about aliens, mysticism, ESP and Biblical monsters.
The band’s lone LP Alpha Jerk, was released on Dutch label Plurex in 1979. Though the songs on the album were great, the final mix was botched and the mastering job flawed. What should have been a classic stiffed though in the intervening years Alpha Jerk and the band’s back catalogue has reached a cult status amongst garage rock and punk fans and has gone on to influence a surprising number of musicians.
Now after 40 years, Ss Records is reissuing Alpha Jerk with the original cover art and corrected mix. Listen to the track "That's The Way It Goes" below
We spoke to Donnie Jupiter, who now spends his time producing sci-fi and fantasy comics, about the band and the record.
NOISEY: What was Sacramento like in the mid-70s?
Donnie Jupiter: There wasn’t much happening as far as the music scene went. It seemed to be stuck in the 60s, musically. For me, the scene was about getting together with fellow record collectors to play records and talk about how crappy most of the mainstream releases were.
What musical direction did you want The Twinkeyz to take?
I didn’t really have a direction in mind. I have always been all over the map with what I want to do. I was happy to experiment. I wanted to evoke pretty much all of my musical influences but not try to imitate them.
Sci-fi has influenced your music and artwork. Were watching and reading a lot at the time?
Yes, always reading comics, sci-fi, and metaphysics. I was happy to watch any movie that came along in the sci-fi/horror vein.
Dave Houston’s production on the album is quite interesting. Did he have much of an influence on how you approached recording?
Dave is a very creative guy with a head full of ideas. He was a big part of our sound. I had little idea what could be done in the studio or what my ideas would actually sound like on tape.
Alpha Jerk has become one of the most infamous botched mastering jobs. What were your initial thoughts on hearing the final mix and master?
I wondered what happened when I heard the record. We were always pressed for time in the studio, rushing through everything. We tried to mix the whole LP in a few hours. My memory was that the sound was thin and tinny when we finished but I was out of money. Maybe somebody tried to fix it by EQing the whole thing.
At the time did you find it odd that a Dutch label showed interest to put it out?
Not at all. Initially I had no identification with the local scene, since there wasn’t a local scene to speak of. Because of music fanzines I was aware of the alternate music scene that was starting up in pockets around the country and world, which seemed to be where the like-minded folks were. I have to say that a pretty healthy local scene did start to develop in Sacramento. A lot of people were ready for a change. Maybe the Twinkeyz were a week and half ahead of the curve.
Are you surprised with The Twinkeyz legacy and how much of the band’s sound influences people and bands now?
Yes, I’m surprised that The Twinkeyz are remembered at all. I thought we were special at the time, but there is just so much music to listen to I felt that our contribution was quickly buried and left behind. It’s very validating anytime anyone remembers the Twinkeyz.
‘Alpha Jerk’ is available for order through Ss records.