By Jacob Katel
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Schascle "Twinkle" Yochim is typical of so many unsigned talents, a tough-voiced belter of bluesy rock with tons of melodic skill. She writes big, memorable songs, captured neatly on a demo, and has been touring the club circuit from her Sarasota base for several years.
Your standard dreamer who deserves better or your basic loser who needs a day job A depending on your degree of cynicism.
Except one thing: Schascle (the surname is dropped for show-biz ventures) has a recording contract with that majorest of labels, Warner Bros., and in 1991 issued a debut album under the company's Reprise imprint. The album sold squat, but she had signed for at least two, with the company holding an option on four more after that.
Schascle (pronounced chess-EL when pronounced correctly) says she had been singing in clubs for years until someone asked her to provide some studio backing vocals. She made friends with James Fairs, who produced a demo, which made the industry rounds. The singer herself wasn't especially proud of the tape A too much digital sequencing for her rootsy taste. Biz big shots, however, loved the voice and the tunes, and soon enough Schascle was jetting to Lala land to meet with execs from Atlantic and Warner Bros.
Producer Patrick Leonard (Madonna, Roger Waters) latched onto the project and offered to produce a record before Schascle inked with a label. "I went to Atlantic's offices," she recalls in her bluebird speaking voice, "and it was too sterile. Then at Warners it was all wood, and they were like, 'Whatever you want to do is great.'" She signed one year later. The album A Haunted by Real Life A was released. It bombed.
It is not a terrible record, even though Leonard dressed it up with everything from an orchestra to a gospel choir while also employing virtually every A list studio cat west of the Mississippi. The spry passion of Schascle's powerhouse voice somehow rose above the clatter on at least a few of the tracks, and, she says, "I love the record and I'm very proud of it."
The release's commercial failure could be attributed to several factors A if anyone knew for sure what went wrong, he'd be running Warner Bros. Leonard perhaps went overboard with his large-scale production. Haunted came out during an era when "new" female singers were a dime a diva A Mariah Carey clones were as common as greasy attorneys in the corridors of power. And there was no way for Schascle to tour with a real band because she didn't have one.
She refuses to blame Warners for any of this. "Pat pulled in some real players, the best in the universe," she says. "That was wonderful. But I wouldn't do that on my own. What am I going to say? He's sold millions of records and Warners has sold millions of records. What am I going to say to them? Madonna was a foot A a big, big foot A in the door for him and he was a funny, brilliant producer. But I'm no pop diva." She says the label did its best promotionwise. "They made this box with a video and CD in it," the singer says. "VH-1 was supportive, they played it a lot. The video was shot at an old mansion up here, the last 48 acres of untouched forest land on the bay, with eagles' nests, and herons. It was very cool. Warners has been great."
Nonetheless, Schascle A commonly referred to as "Twinkle, the hippie chick," possibly because she performs barefoot and possesses a look of glow-ing innocence common to young women in the Sixties A has found a new direction, one she's hoping to persuade her label to support.
One night in a Tampa-area club, Schascle had caught a band called One Block South, a rockin' outfit with the right attitude. "It was like being in high school," she recalls. "They were having fun, loving to play, jamming on these fifteen-minute songs. I thought, 'This is who I need to play with.' But Warner would never go for it."
There was another problem with One Block South A she became half of an off-stage duo with the group's drummer, Andrew Lacroix. "I was worried what others would say about it," she explains, "so I stayed away.
You know, that they would say, 'Oh, you're working with your husband.'"
With more than a decade of playing live and a major-label album behind her, Schascle began to outgrow the self-questioning. "They were practicing one day," she says of One Block South, "and I showed them one of my songs and they whipped it out just the way I wanted it. I said, 'That's it.' Then I had a nervous breakdown because now I'm going to tell Warners this is who I want to play with. This is the future, a band, being part of a band instead of me hiring people. They each have their own ideas. I used to care what people said, but now I have more confidence. It's a great feeling. I mean, I'm not coming from outer space. I play often and people love it because we play from the heart. It's not the skill, but that it's from the heart."