New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

Big News! Emily Mann to retire as McCarter Theatre's Artistic Director following 2019-2020 season
Click here for the story!

An Interview With Jim Testa, publisher of Jersey Beat On 35th Anniversary

By Gary Wien

originally published: 04/12/2017

An Interview With Jim Testa, publisher of Jersey Beat On 35th Anniversary

Jersey Beat has long since morphed from a print zine to an online blog (with a podcast) and remains of the most influential music publications in the Garden State.  Created by Jim Testa, Jersey Beat will celebrate it's 35th anniversary at Maxwell's Tavern in Hoboken on Friday, April 14.  The show includes performances by many of the artists who inspired Testa to create Jersey Beat including Richard Barone of the Bongos, Glenn Morrow (Individuals, Cry for Help), Mod Fun, The Cucumbers, Tammy Faye Starlight & Keith Hartel, Prosolar Mechanics, Balloon Squad, Karyn Kuhl & Alice Genese, Paul Richard (Adrenalin OD), Marc Maurizi (Cropduster), and Tris McCall. Admission is $12 at the door and $10 in advance.  Proceeds will benefit The Project Matters, a local NJ charity that mentors and supports young musicians.

If you're not familiar with the history of the publication, check out the Jersey Beat Story Vol. 1 to learn how a column in a fanzine led to the creation of the zine, its early days, and what led it to move solely online.  New Jersey Stage spoke to Jim Testa about the show and highlights from the years.

An Interview With Jim Testa, publisher of Jersey Beat On 35th AnniversaryHow does it feel for Jersey Beat to turn 35? Did you ever imagine it would last this long? Of course not. But I can go further than that. In the 25 years I did the print zine, I never looked further ahead than the next issue.  It's always been one day at a time. Which might be the secret of my longevity.

I was wondering about having the show at Maxwell's (where it sort of all began).  How thankful are you that the venue returned?  Could you imagine holding this anniversary party somewhere else? It's not the same Maxwell's, of course, but then it's not 1982 anymore either. But it does feel really good to be able to do it there, because Maxwell's really is where my career as a music writer took hold.  I've done Jersey Beat Nights at other venues, like the Saint and Court Tavern, and even quite a few in Manhattan and Brooklyn, so doing this somewhere else isn't unimaginable. But being able to do it at Maxwell's is really nice.  A lot of people are telling me that this show will be their first time back since Todd Abramson's final show in 2013.  So maybe this will get a few old-timers back to frequenting the place.

Tell me about the show.  Have you written about or had all of the acts play shows for you in the past? Yes. Everyone on the bill has been in Jersey Beat, some of them voluminously, and most of them going back to the Eighties.  Glenn Morrow, Richard Barone, the Feelies, the Cucumbers, and Gutbank were some of the first friends I made in 1982  (along with Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, who'd later form Yo La Tengo.) Three members of my old band The Love Pushers will be on stage together for the first time since 1986.

The article continues after this ad


I think Foggy Otis is the "new" kid and I've been friends with him since 2003.

An Interview With Jim Testa, publisher of Jersey Beat On 35th AnniversaryOn you web page where you tell the story of the mag, you have a picture of Jersey Beat #2 (with the Bongos on the cover).  Who was on the cover for the first issue? It was a skinny-tie new wave band called The Jitterz who were very popular at the Dirt Club and other suburban venues at the time. (There was also an interview with Johnny Dirt, the owner of the Dirt Club, in #1.) There were already a couple of publications that had very close ties to Maxwell's, like New York Rocker and the Soho Weekly News (where Ira Kaplan had a column,) and I was probably afraid that people would think this was just another Maxwell's house organ, so I went another way with the first issue.  Early on we had theme issues about New Brunswick and the Jersey shore too, but Maxwell's was always a focus for the first 20 years or so.

What were a few of your favorite interviews over the years? A few stand out.  Mike Watt, because he's the last American beatnik and a total original. There's one with Greg from the Bouncing Souls that I think did a really good job of explaining how they used their band's success to build a real community and find a lot of their friends permanent jobs. I did a great interview with Jawbox in the Nineties that I think was really one of the best they ever did. J Robbins was actually in tears during part of it. Another standout from those days was the interview I did with Quicksand when their first album came out. The band liked it so much, they used my interview as their presskit for their second album.  I did quite a few good interviews with Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel too, back in the heyday of Nineties pop-punk.

Who was an artist you always wanted to interview but never got the opportunity to speak with? A lot.  Michael Stipe, Paul Westerberg, Bob Mould... all of which I probably could have landed back in the Eighties if I had pushed hard enough or just had the moxie to show up with a notebook and tape recorder at a show.

Alex Chilton.  Robyn Hitchcock. Roky Erickson.

An Interview With Jim Testa, publisher of Jersey Beat On 35th AnniversaryWhat do you think was your most popular piece? I can't speak to that, but the most popular issue we ever did was #37 with Agnostic Front and a lot of NY/HC bands on the cover. It sold out faster than any other issue. I think I have one copy left in my "archive."

What piece might have gotten you in the most trouble? Probably a live review of Dramarama in which I criticized them for being a bit boring and saving their only two hits for their last two songs, which I found very cliched.  Let's just say that someone in the band who wears sunglasses took great exception.

Ever get tired of reviewing CDs? No, but I'm lucky in that I do it in bunches, only when I'm in the mood. Since Jersey Beat has never paid the bills, I've never been on the kind of soul-crushing deadlines that can turn a fun hobby into a painful grind.

Finally, You're one of the "deans" of Jersey music journalists.  How does it make you feel to know you have inspired so many publications and websites over the years? I don't even know if that's true. If I'm the "dean" of Jersey rock criticism, it's because I've been around so long and also because - for whatever reasons - I'm one of the few Jersey writers who has a bit of a national profile, having written for Rolling Stone, Request, Guitar World, and other publications over the years, as well as being a long-time attendee of festivals like SXSW and CMJ.  People know me as "that Jersey guy" in a lot of circles.

I think my most meaningful contribution, if anything, has been to encourage and nurture the musicians I've written about.  I guess there have been a decent number of writers who got their start writing for Jersey Beat, some of them pretty big names, like Jim DeRogatis, Karen Schoemer (of The NY Times and Spin,) Ben Weasel (who wrote for Maximum Rock n Roll for decades,) and Brandon Stosuy (who ran for a while).

An Interview With Jim Testa, publisher of Jersey Beat On 35th Anniversary

For more by this author, click here

Light of Day's Main Event To Be Broadcast Live at McLoone's Supper Club
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- If you couldn't get tickets for the fabled "main event" of the 2019 Light of Day Winterfest, you have another chance see the show.  For the first time in the 19-year history of the festival, the "main event", the star-studded “Bob’s Birthday Bash” on January 19th (a show that has long sold out), will be broadcast live via fiber optic cable at McLoone's Supper Club in Asbury Park.
Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts To Hold Winter Open House On January 27
(BERKELEY HEIGHTS) -- Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) will host a Winter Open House on Sunday, January 27 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The free event is open to the public and will be held at the Performing Arts School (PAS) located at 60 Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights.
Billy Idol and Steve Stevens To Perform At Count Basie Center For The Arts
(RED BANK, NJ) -- Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, one of rock’s most iconic and enduring duos, will hit the road this March for their first ever tour performing as a duo: Turned On, Tuned In and Unplugged. The Billy Idol/Steve Stevens tour comes to The Count Basie Center for the Arts on Thursday, April 4th.
McDonald's Gospelfest To Celebrate The Life of Aretha Franklin With Return to Prudential Center
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The 37th Annual McDonald’s Gospelfest returns to the Prudential Center on Saturday, May 11 for the gospel event of the year. This year's event will honor and celebrate the life and legacy of the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin with an All-Star cast. The 5:00pm to 7:00pm portion of the evening will feature a rising stars competition for all ages and cultures in categories including Soloists, Choirs, Praise Dancers, Singing Groups, Gospel Comedians, Gospel Poets and Gospel Rappers. The gospel concert, beginning at 7:00pm, will feature some of the most renowned gospel artists in music history with the goal of spreading love, peace and joy to all races, nationalities and beliefs.
Bickford Theatre Presents Herb Gardner's Groundhog Jam
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The great Groundhog Jam has a long history of prying jazz fans out of their warm burrows and into the chill of February weather in order to welcome the advent of spring.  The Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum continues a tradition of hosting this event on Monday, February 4 at 7:30pm. Herb Gardner, who plays both trombone and piano, is assembling a stellar group of musicians from the New York, New Jersey, and New England areas including: Fred Vigorito on cornet, Joe Licari on clarinet, James Chirilloon guitar, Mike Weatherly on bass and Robbie Scott on drums.  Daughters Abbie and Sarah Gardner will be handling the vocals and guitar.

Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band.
"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.
“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!
Mike Davis and The New Wonders
Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie. He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own. Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.
Ana Gasteyer's "Holiday Tipple" LIVE! at the Grunin Center
The Grunin Center stage in Toms River, NJ is set this Saturday, December 15, 2018 with drums, a grand piano, a guitar, an acoustic bass, and various microphones for vocals. A stool and several microphone stands are bedazzled with colorful garlands of shiny red, gold, and green, and wrapped gifts are strewn on stage among the instruments. Projected white snowflakes adorn the walls, and Christmas music plays as patrons enter the theater to put everyone in the mood for tonight’s holiday show — Ana Gastayer’s Holiday Tipple!

Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.