Sunday, December 20, 2009

DVD Review: Kiki Smith- Squatting the Palace

photo by Checkerboard Films

Kiki Smith is a tough person to label in the contemporary art world but the new DVD Squatting the Palace gives a look into her whirlwind process revealing a great deal about her creative identity and ultimately her work itself. The documentary focuses on her preparation for a major exhibition in 2005 at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice giving the audience an inside look into how she creates her work and what it takes to put together such a large exhibition.

With her wild grey hair and tattooed arms, Kiki Smith appears to be a contradiction- part soulful hippie and part New York punk and that sensibility carries over to her work which has defied the common stereotypes incorporating multiple media including sculpture, printmaking, drawing, photography, and anything else that suits her fancy. The film does a good job in illuminating events in Smith’s childhood such as her sparse living spaces and her relationship with her father, sculptor Tony Smith, giving the viewer a great deal of insight into her work’s ultimate meaning. It also might explain why Smith has avoided working in a formal studio, choosing instead to work in her East Village townhouse which is at times both frenetic and quaint.

The only downside to the documentary is that Smith’s flighty nature gets in the way of what she’s saying at times and the unobtrusive; almost cinéma vérité style doesn’t include input from other artists or scholars that might add some clarity.

For: Short&SweetNYC

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Film Review: Terminator Salvation

In 2018, when people are immersed in the world of the machines after Judgment Day, one thought seems to plague mankind: that Christian Bale can’t play a human and Terminator Salvation is proof. Indeed, the fourth installment of the Terminator franchise is weakened by his performance even though the other major aspects of the production hit their mark. Otherwise, the film is well written catering to fans with smart call-backs like using Guns-N-Roses “You Could Be Mine” and a cameo by Arnold himself it also features some nice performances such as Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese and Ms. Sexypants 2009, Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams.

Unfortunately Bale’s unfeeling, cardboard persona which is perfect for Patrick Bateman in American Psycho falls off the screen as John Conner, leading the audience to root for a machine to survive in his place. The real hero of the film is condemned killer Marcus Wright played remarkably by Sam Worthington who brings the struggle between man and machine to a very literal climax in the film (and ironically still has more heart than Bale’s John Conner). The sound quality of the film is hauntingly effective but the robots sound suspiciously similar to the Transformers (I smell a spin off Transformers vs. - never mind, they’re the same thing). Regardless, despite its flaws, the film is certainly entertaining and it’s no doubt a movie we can all watch repeatedly after it’s bought by a cable channel and is rerun till our eyes bleed so filmmakers “GOOD FOR YOU!”

For: Short&SweetNYC

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Film Review: Gilda Live

Shortly before her departure from Saturday Night Live, Gilda Radner put together a one-woman show on Broadway which was part variety show and part showcase for some of her notable characters from SNL, the show was made into a film by director Mike Nichols and the result is the newly released Gilda Live. The play is essentially a series of sketches and also features appearances by fellow SNL actor/writer Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci and Paul Shaffer, Howard Shore, and G.E. Smith (who Gilda married soon afterwards) of the Saturday Night Live Band.

The DVD quality is not great and has no extras, contemporary audiences also might have some trepidation about embarking on a trip back to that special time in America when film was yellowed and the hair was plentiful but Nichols documentary style is very palatable, giving the audience a look backstage at the inner workings of the performance. Gilda’s talents shine early on in the performance with an onslaught of singing, dancing, and her boisterous Judy Miller sketch which is one of the highlights of the show. Father Guido Sarducci is another high point, especially his epic bit about paying for sins and 5-minute College.

Unfortunately the enthusiasm fades a bit as the show progresses and the performance ends a bit weak, but maybe that’s just because Rosanna Rosannadanna’s jokes about Geraldo and Walter Cronkite are a bit too topical. Regardless, the film shows what a great comic actor Gilda was before she lost her battle with ovarian cancer.

For: Short&SweetNYC

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Best Music of 2009 according to Tim Needles

It's coming to the end of another year so here's a little wrap up of some of my favorites. of 2009:

Top 5 Music Videos of 2009

1)Beast- "Mr.Hurricane" (dir. Ben Steiger-Levine)
The only thing I hate about this video is that I didn't make it

2)Oren Lavie- "Her Morning Elegance" (dir. Yuval and Merav Nathan with Oren Lavie)
I teach pixilation, I love pixilation

3)Chairlift- "Evident Utensil" (dir. Ray Tintori)
One of the most innovative music videos in a long time, a long time...

4)Grizzly Bear- "Two Weeks"(dir. Patrick Daughters)
The shots are just so strange, it works

5)Bob Dylan- "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'" (dir. Nash Edgerton)
Who who think of such a violent, loving side of Dylan?

Top Songs of 2009
1)“Daylight”- Matt & Kim
2)“Nothing To Worry About”- Peter, Bjorn, & John
3)“My Girls”- Animal Collective
4)“The Rake’s Song”- The Decemberists
5)“Baby Boomer”- Monsters Of Folk
6)“Hanuman”- Rodrigo y Gabriela
7)“Snookered”- Dan Deacon
8)“Shampoo”- Elvis Perkins In Dearland
9)“What Would I Want? Sky”- Animal Collective
10)“Animal”- Miike Snow
11)“Stand By Me”- Playing For Change
12)“Fangala”- Here We Go Magic
13)"Make Her Say"- Kid Cudi (feat. Kanye West & Common)
14)"Relator"- Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson
15)“Fitz and the Dizzyspells”- Andrew Bird
16)“1901”- Phoenix
17)“Birds Fly Away”- Theresa Andersson
18)"Two Weeks"- Grizzly Bear
19)"Kandi"- One Eskimo
20)"Party in the USA"- Miley Cyrus
21)“Just Breathe”- Pearl Jam
22)“Run This Town”- Jay Z (feat. Rihanna & Kanye West)
23)“I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight”- U2
24)“My Night with the Prostitute from Marseilli”- Beirut
25)“Home”- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
26)“Cousins”- Vampire Weekend
27)“You’re a Cad”- The Bird & The Bee
28)“The Trapeze Swinger” - Iron & Wine
29)“Ain't No Rest For The Wicked”- Cage The Elephant
30)“Bad Fever” - The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
31)"Pink and Glitter”- Tori Amos
32)“Islands"- The XX
33)“Mean Monsoon” - Dan Auerbach
34)“Dog Days are Over”- Florence & the Machine
35)“Darling”- Zee Avi
36)“Satellite Skin”- Modest Mouse
37)“Empire State of Mind”- Jay Z (feat. Alicia Keys)
38)“One Love”- Playing For Change
39)“Thunder” – Matisyahu
40)“Say Hey (I Love You)”- Michael Franti & Spearhead (feat. Cherine Anderson)

Tim’s Top Albums of 2009
1) Merriweather Post Pavilion- Animal Collective
2) Monsters of Folk- Monsters of Folk
3) Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix- Phoenix
4) Songs Around The World- Playing For Change
5) March of the Zapotec/Holland- Beirut
6) Bromst- Dan Deacon
7) Elvis Perkins In Dearland- Elvis Perkins In Dearland
8) Grand- Matt & Kim
9) 11:11- Rodrigo y Gabriela
10) Up from Below- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
11) Veckatimest- Grizzly Bear
12) Together Through Life- Bob Dylan
13) Noble Beast- Andrew Bird
14) I and Love and You- The Avett Brothers
15) Break Up- Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson
16) Hummingbird, Go!- Theresa Andersson
17) Hold Time- M.Ward
18) Living Thing- Peter, Bjorn, & John
19) Miike Snow- Miike Snow
20) The Hazards of Love- The Decemberists

Monday, December 7, 2009

Theater Review: Company XIV's Le Serpent Rouge!

Sex and decadence abound in Brooklyn’s Le Serpent Rouge!, a wonderfully theatrical and somewhat sensational retelling of the story of Adam & Eve through dance by Company XIV. Choreographer Austin McCormick assembles five eclectic performers dressed sometimes only in pasties or a thong (and occasionally less) to reenact the story of man’s fall from grace with a comical, if not feminist edge, and a hip amalgam of pop culture reference.

The story, narrated by a dominatrix ring leader from hell (Gioia Marchese), follows a very indecisive Adam (Nick Fesette) as he pushes away Lilith (the new woman of my dreams, Yeva Glover) due to her lack of soul for Eve (Laura Careless) only to later yearn for her as time progresses from the Garden of Eden to the modern day nightmare that some consider a marriage. The piece is broken up with fun lip-synched vignettes and some of the tightest dancing in the show by Davon Rainy who doubles as the servant of heaven and hell.

The performance runs through January 17 and is staged 303 Bond Street, a former truck garage that was cleverly transformed through Zane Philstrom’s simple yet creative set design and props along with some brilliant lighting courtesy of Gina Scherr. McCormick blends Cecilia Bartoli and Baroque with James Brown and a drag queen to produce a piece that is as entertaining as it is impressive and intricate. The performance is smart and visually awe inspiring and should be packaged along with a piece of artisan chocolate and mailed to every hipster on the planet for the holidays.

For: Short & Sweet NYC

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Queen Muppets

Here's a awesome short film that a former student, Kelli Krysh, sent me that her company, Soapbox Films, worked on to commemorates the anniversary of Queen front man, Freddy Mercury's death from AIDs. They shot it in 1 day using 79 muppets and 53 different setups- impressive!! It's great to see students graduate and do what they love!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Film Review: Empire of the Eye: The Magic of Illusion

Watching Al Roker talk about the history of art and illusion makes as much sense as attending a nuclear physics lecture by Ronald McDonald. Not to be a “Roker-hater” but the man dorks the hell out of this presentation which is otherwise really interesting and at times downright fascinating- I’ll watch him do weather or make ribs, but leave the wonders of art history alone, Al.

So aside from the unbelievably corny Roker-vision, this 50 minute look into the history of optical illusion in art, architecture, and sculpture by the National Gallery of Art in Washington is as informative as it is cool. There are some visuals that go on too long, an excessive use of 3D wireframes, and enough epic, heavenly music to make you consider hell as an option but the look into anamorphic paintings, tricks with scale, and multiple-point perspective are well worth it.

The documentary highlights interesting works by artists like: DaVinci, Holbein the Younger, and the lesser known but equally impressive Masaccio and Francesco Borromini and it does a good job in illustrating how the illusions work. For good measure the film covers modern usage of optical illusions by using a clip from Casablanca and in everyone’s favorite use of forced perspective in Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle as well. The DVD is a must have for art teachers, stoners, and Al Roker’s family but it’s an enlightening experience for anyone interested in art or visual trickery.

For: Short & Sweet NYC

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review: John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders @ Le Poisson Rouge 11.18.09

Variety, they say, is the spice of life and there may be no better proof than the eclectic assemblage of talent that was culled together by "folk noir" singer and author John Wesley Harding for his Cabinet of Wonders show at Le Poisson Rouge.

Harding opened the show by introducing the performers via rhyming poems and played a tune featuring his band The English U.K. The first featured guest was author Stephen Elliott who read an excerpt from his novel “The Adderall Diaries” followed by singer A.C. Newman (of the New Pornographers) who did a duo of tunes and was then joined onstage by Harding and his band for one of the highlight’s of the evening, a wonderful rendition of Julian Cope’s tune “All the Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers”.

Next up to bat was author Steve Almond who did a humorous reading deconstructing Toto’s 1983 hit “Africa” followed by comedian Eugene Mirman and an impassioned performance by Old 97’s singer Rhett Miller who did a few originals as well as a cover of Bowie’s “Five Years” with Harding. Finally, comedian Mike Birbiglia hit the stage and delivered another terrific performance with some very personal material about how early love and carnival rides don’t pair well.

The venue was perfect for the occasion with a very intimate setting and the line-up made for a thoroughly entertaining show which was topped off with everyone joining Harding onstage for a cover of “I’m a Believer”. Now I have one more goal in life to one day join the Cabinet of day

For: Short & Sweet NYC

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I usually remember my name...this is ridiculous

Here's a clip showing autistic artist Stephen Wiltshire who is able to draw detailed cityscapes from life- amazing stuff!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Music Review: Rodrigo Y Gabriela- 11:11

Whether you’re a metal head, a flamenco fanatic, or a jazz nut, 11:11, the new album by genius guitarist masterminds Rodrigo Y Gabriela is a collection of songs you’ll need to take a look at. The Mexican duo of Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero have been every musician’s fan favorite for years now but their blend of classical, metal, jazz, folk, and flamenco along with their amazing talents on the guitar are beginning to get noticed by a wider audience and for good reason.

The songs vary a bit but all show-off the group’s virtuoso skill ranging from the quick paced Spanish style “Hanuman” to the jazzy, melodic “Triveni”. The album is a tribute of sorts to their musical influences and each song was created as a homage to another musician from Hendrix to Pink Floyd. The album features another well known guitar playing duo, Strunz & Farah, on “Master Maqui” which is a gorgeous work that almost leaves you exhausted from the quick fingering. Metallica fans will enjoy “Chac Mool” which brings to mind the beautiful old school introductions in Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning and “Atman”, a tribute to fallen guitar icon Dimebag Darrell, featuring Testament’s Alex Skolnick which will quickly find itself in the folds of your brain tissue sparking the neurons.

Not every song goes on the iPod playlist but the music inspires awe in anyone who’s held a guitar and the album is great as long-play party music

For: Short & Sweet NYC

Monday, October 19, 2009

Harley Davidson's "The Art of Rebellion"

Harley Davidson motorcycles have always been iconically cool but the customized bikes featured in Harley’s “The Art of Rebellion” show bring cool up a notch. The show which raised money for the CUE art foundation which supports art students, professionals, and scholars took place on October 16 and 17 at LA Venue in Chelsea and featured silkscreened posters and customized gas tanks of Harley’s Dark Custom Iron 883 bikes by 10 well-known artists: Art Chantry, Brian Ewing, Derek Hess, Dirty Donny, Frank Kozik, Harpoon, John Van Hamersveld, Lindsey Kuhn, Tara McPherson and The Pizz.

The art work was varied in approach and style ranging from Art Chantry’s more three-dimensional approach with holes bursting out of the white tank like gunshots with a red neon light inside to Dirty Donny’s painted skull and bones on a lacquered metallic tank. Many of the artists were on hand showing off their work and how customizable the Harley’s Iron 883 motorcycles can be.

I had a chance to speak with illustration legend John Van Hamersveld who’s work such as the “Endless Summer” film poster and album covers like the Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” and the Rolling Stones “Exile on Main Street” (along with Robert Frank) are designs that are well known in the lexicon of the 20th Century. Van Hamersveld’s tank featured a silkscreen of his well known Jimmy Hendrix design from his 1968 concert poster so I asked him how he became involved with creating it and he explained that he “was an art student and got a community together and became a rock promoter to do happenings, this was a Pinnicle concert, it ran for about a year or so and we did about 16 or 17 happenings”.

I also caught up with artist Frank Kozik, who is known for helping to revive the silkscreen poster scene back in the 90’s creating gig posters for bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden and now he’s most known for his unique vinyl toy designs such as the Smorkin' Labbits and Chumps. Kozik had a complete Harley in the show which featured his “Dead Che” design in black with his signature orange and green coloring which gave it a cool underground military look. I asked Frank where he came up with the concept of a skull Che Guevara and he said he “thought that it was funny that all these hipsters were really into Che but he was like a fucking killer motherfucker, there’s a whole ‘Che Vive’ thing so I was like oh- ‘No Che Vive’”. I also asked Frank how he felt about the success of modern poster artists like Shepard Fairey and he said that “I’ve known Shepard since he was in school I was in love with his stuff [but] he went from doing this thing-‘okay, I’m anti-propaganda’- warning you about the evils of propaganda to doing real propaganda, he invalidated his whole life long work by doing real propaganda, I’m like okay, dude, I’m happy for you but you just fucked your message, you fucked yourself”.

The show also featured some great black and white photographs by Adam Wright and Steven Stone that are definitely worth a mention and to see more information on the Art of Rebellion series check out Dark Custom’s website.

Review for: Short & Sweet NYC

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interview: Chico Hamilton

A living legend, Chico Hamilton has played with the likes of Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, and Sammy Davis Jr. and recently celebrated his 88th birthday with a show at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. I had a chance to speak to the NEA Jazz Master for a very, very brief talk about his illustrious career and found that his craft for conversation was not as developed as his skills on the drums. He was a bit like “mean grandpa jazz” calling my questions stupid but I did coax a few replies out of him before his nap or Matlock or whatever 87 year old Jazz musicians do when they aren’t onstage.

I asked Chico what it was like being a jazz musician coming up in the heart of the depression in California and he thought it was a stupid question but did relent to say that “at that time in jazz, you were considered a sinner and there was only one kind of music being played at that time which was swing music.” After brushing aside a few more questions with Andy Warhol like short answers, I inquired about his experience in teaching and why he wanted to work as an educator to which he replied that it was his way of giving something back because music has always been very good to him.

Mr. Hamilton has had a few choice parts in the world of film, such as his role playing in Fred Astaire’s backing band onscreen in the 1941 hit You’ll Never Get Rich (which featured Rita Hayworth’s first big starring role) so I asked him about how he ended up in the world of movies. He told me that he had been in films ever since he was a kid in L.A.- “I was in all the Tarzan movies- you know those natives running around the jungle, I was one of those kids.” When asked about his feeling about contemporary music Chico stated that “it takes all kind of music to make music- that’s my philosophy” going on to say that music was “God’s will and God’s will, will be done.” Finally as for his advice to young people who want to make it as musicians Chico said to “save your money” and with that nugget of sunshine we bid adieu and I looked back on our five minutes together and thought about all the good times we shared as a montage of dead silence and aggravated short answers played in my head to the hit “Through the Years.”

For: Short & Sweet NYC

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hamptons International Film Festival

This weekend I'll be out to the East End of Long Island for the Hamptons International Film Festival in East Hampton. The film I most excited about this year is the premiere of Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus which is Heath Ledger's final film which has Heath, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law all playing the same role (due to his death). It should be interesting- everything Terry Gillam does usually is!

* A note to any of my students who are waiting to hear about volunteering out there- last I heard is that they are full so if you didn't receive a phonecall there is likely no room- if you are going to head out and give it a try anyway I suggest buying some film tickets in advance so you can at least grab a seat for a film and try to make the Master Cinematography class which is free and open to the public.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

CD Review: Monsters of Folk

Chocolate is delicious but it’s even better with peanut butter and pretzels and Monsters of Folk which features Jim James from My Morning Jacket, M. Ward, most recently of She & Him, and Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes might be the indie/alt. country/folk rock equivalent. Their premiere self-titled album is a sonically eclectic but thematically coherent musical piece and interestingly it strays quite a distance from “folk” music at times.

The band might be best compared to the original 60’s folk rock super group Crosby Stills Nash (and Young) because the combinations of writing, musical sensibilities, and most notably vocals in combination make for a sum greater than the individual parts. This isn’t true of every track but the standouts such as “Baby Boomer” which is an extraordinary song that gets political in the old school folk tradition certainly shows off how fruitful the collaboration between the members can be.

There are quite a few memorable tracks on the album such as: “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” which begins the album on a spiritual note with a colorful blend of 1970’s downbeat disco and folk, “Temazcal” which is a beautiful poem set to music, and “The Right Place” which questions personal ethics with a sound reminiscent of Gram Parsons. For fans of any of these musicians the album is a must have and even in this era of side project madness this one feels a little more special than the rest.

For Short & Sweet NYC

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

DVD Review: Terry Fator– Live From Las Vegas

On his new DVD, Live from Vegas, Season 2’s America’s Got Talent winner Terry Fator proves that he is extraordinarily talented and that his show is equally extraordinarily difficult to sit through. The cringing started shortly after hitting the play button because although Fator is clearly one of the best singing-ventriloquist-impressionists around, his very hokey, starchy show is a snoozefest on valium. There is an audience for this kind of cheesy garbage, I know, I wait behind them sometimes at traffic lights screaming, but they are best avoided when possible.

The show does have moments that emerge from the middle-American grey, dullness such as when Terry pulls an audience member on stage and adds a mask and dress using the live person as a doll very effectively, but everything is so scripted any reality is quickly shooed offstage. I’m sure Terry is a nice guy because he said so in the first chapter of his autobiography which was included with the DVD “Who’s The Dummy Now?” (answer: anyone reading the book) in which he tells his story of rags to riches slowly and painfully. Another added bonus is the worst audio commentary ever recorded featuring Terry and his comedy writer who is so far from the microphone that he might be down the block running from the nightmare.

It may play well in Peoria and fill seats at the Mirage, but after watching his act Terry Fator’s fan club is probably just hearing about this great new thing called the internet.

For Short & Sweet NYC

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Decemberists at Terminal 5 9.19.2009

The Decemberists were in town Saturday night to perform a special lottery show where each song would be pulled at random from a drawing on stage then performed and it made for a lively evening. The lottery master was none other than John Wesley Harding who was so entertaining with his British accent and off-the-cuff quips while choosing the songs that the drawing became equally as memorable as the performance.

The show began with Yankee Bayonet and opener Laura Veirs joined the band for a wonderful introduction and the set included a number of high points notably a passionate rendition of "Bachelor and the Bride" and "The Rake Song" which featured 3 of the 5 members on drums. As one might expect the mood was a bit scattered at times due to the random nature of the game, but the game itself was so much fun it didn't really matter. The band played along in style and were quite a bit tighter than their recent New York performances and the stress of having to change instruments and react quickly brought a great, fun-loving energy to the stage.

As a fan it was fun knowing what songs were coming next because Mr. Harding pulled 3 songs at a time but special dares were included as well such as crowd surfing and a dare to have singer Colin Meloy write and perform a song live on stage which was certainly a highlight (watch the clip below). The experience was one we will not soon forget and little bonuses such as having a tennis pro hop on stage after each song, hitting the lottery ball with the song title into the crowd made every moment interesting. The band closed out the performance with a terrific cover of the Electric Light Orchestra's "Mister Blue Sky" and the audience walked out satisfied and thoroughly entertained.

Yankee Bayonet
July July
The Raincoat Song
Bridges and Balloons
From My Own True Love
Bachelor and the Bride
The Rake Song
Culling of the Fold
Dare- (Rich and Marselle crowd surf to a waltz)
I was Meant for the Stage
The Island
The Crane Wife 3
Annan Water
Dare- (Nate and John make out)
Dare- (Colin write and sing a song right now)
The Tain
A Perfect Crime
Mister Blue Sky (ELO cover)

Back from Japan and in the Thick of It

Magical, ancient, strange, wondrous, modern, and occasionally very nude- those are the descriptive terms I find myself referring to most often when talking about my nearly month-long trip to Japan but without question it was life-changing and most certainly a positive experience. I spent the last weeks of the summer vacation organizing my thoughts and photos and trying to digest the moments I had on the other side of the world and it turns out all the octopus and eyes and such don't digest quickly but I did put together 3 new travel journals of my trip to share. Here they are enjoy them and feel free to comment back on anything. I'm well into the swing of life as a slightly over-reaching teacher, writer, artist, etc. now so life quite a bit different than it was a few weeks back but it great to reminisce.

Friday, June 19, 2009

On my way to Japan

This week I leave for a long trip to Japan and I've been studying up on the history, language, and culture. Here's the song I'm learning along with the group of educators I'm traveling with (it was the only song by a Japanese artist to ever hit number 1 on the charts in the US). Among the surprises in my research was how small the country really is, the fact that speaking English is something you find everywhere even though it is usually taught in schools, and their public toliets are not flush toliets, they are squat toliets (I'll let my animated friend Shimajiro show you how to use them).

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Queens Killing Kings

This week I stopped by the set of a music video for The Queens Killing Kings song "Ivory" shot by my buddies Adam Rothlein and John Carlucci. Here's a couple photos that I took from the shoot. Check the band out Friday June 19th at the Bell House in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Music Review: Solid Gold

Solid Gold - Bible Thumper

I’ve heard it said that you can get addicted to certain hardcore drugs after trying it just once or twice and such is the case with the debut album from Minneapolis’s Solid Gold entitled Bodies of Water. The sound is remarkably easy to listen to with its smooth melodies and offbeat digital percussion and sounds a bit like a shoegazing version of later 1980’s AM radio (along the lines of later Fleetwood Mac and Steve Miller’s Abracadabra). The album is like a bucket of chill with a moody, electronic chaser and the pacing and diversity of the songs keep it interesting throughout.

The album begins with “New Kanada” which introduces a low-fi acoustic riff that opens up into a dense electronic composition complete with what sounds like digital woodpeckers, down-home banjo, and psychedelic keyboards then again gets minimal during the chorus with just drums, keyboards, and vocals. It’s followed up with “Armoured Cars” which is quicker in pace and more simplified musically but has a fantastic melody and golden vocals. Seamlessly, the next song, “Get Over It”, takes the pace down slightly but it’s funky synth melody hooks the listener in as it strings together a smooth, dreamlike sonic landscape with the simple but effective lyrics. “Bible Thumper”, the next track is another keeper with its looped, oddball pulsating sounds and bright guitar rhythm which drops out at key moments lending a power to the vocals and keyboard melody.

The album continues to impress with songs like “Calm Down” which is reminiscent Pink Floyd, the up-tempo, Castilian-esque “Neon Rose”, and “Who You Gonna Run To?” which mixes the dreamlike trance keyboard feel with a steady digital beat for great effect. The band hasn’t hit big yet but it’s just a matter of time so beat out the trend and check out the album so you can call your friends losers when they haven’t heard of them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Neil Young Live at Massey Hall 1971

I recently bought Neil Young's archive release of "Live at Massey Hall 1971" from Toronto and it's incredible to hear the piercingly crisp vocals on classic songs like "Ohio", "Old Man", and "Down By the River". It's haunting and the intro's to some of Neil's mindset at the time (only 8 of the 18 played were recorded at the time).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Beirut's Sunday Smile

In light of this weekend's wonderous weather here's one of my favorite groups, Beirut, doing "Sunday Smile" during a one-off (or take away as they call it in Europe) show in France a few years ago.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Film Review: The Arrival

1996 was a good year- Deep Blue the chess computer beat world champion Garry Kasparov, we cloned sheep, and how could anyone forget the discovery of “element 112” better known by it’s stage name, Ununbium? It was also the year that brought us David Twohy’s Sci-fi thriller, The Arrival, starring Charlie Sheen and recently deceased character actor Ron Silver. The concept behind the film is clever and certainly timely focusing on global warming as Sheen who plays Zane Zaminski, (worst character name ever) a radio astronomer, stumbles upon an extra terrestrial radio transmission than leads to a conspiracy which leads to a very campy special effects extravaganza in Mexico.

It’s quite an interesting ride even though the plot is a bit predictable at times and moves too quickly. There is a certain John Water’s over-the-top Attack of the Killer Tomatoes feel which is enjoyable especially because it takes itself absolutely seriously at every moment. Sheen is totally 90’s sheik in the film and shortly after the opening credits becomes a stereotype of the “impassioned, scientist who is trying to save us all at any cost” and Silver plays one of his trademark roles as “the guy in the suit who’s pulling all the strings.”

The film is interesting because it shows some of writer/director David Twohy’s early style (he went on to write and direct Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick) and although it doesn’t come through on its potential it’s fun in it’s own unique way. It’s just been re-released on Blu-Ray and it’s a perfect choice for Science fiction nuts, LSD fanatics, and the people of Tepotzotlán, Mexico where it was filmed.

Film review for Short & Sweet NYC

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Art Anywhere, Improv Everywhere

Here's a great recent mission from the improv group Improv Everywhere where they took the 23rd street subway station and made it an art gallery- Marcel Duchamp would be proud! If you want to be part of the next mission and you're free next weekend they are doing their 6th Mp3 Experiment on Roosevelt Island.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

2009 New York Photo Festival

I recently reviewed the The New York Photo Festival for Short & Sweet NYC. The festival, which runs through May 17, has a terrific opening party (pictured above) and a number of different exhibitions, workshops, talks, and events on hand which focus primarily on the future of the photographic medium. Well known photographers such as Eugene Richards and Lauren Greenfield will be making their way to the stage as well as representatives from some of the photographic establishments which are tuned into the cutting edge of the medium such as Aperture and JPG magazine.

Some of the highlights of the festival include Jon Levy’s curatorial show “Home For Good” which focuses on the many forms of visual storytelling, Veronique Bourgoin’s “Magic Trick” which shows off the wonder of the soon to be deceased Poloroid, and the work at the Randall Scott Gallery (especially the series by Brad Harris and Henry Leutwyler) all of which have a documentary edge to them. Also, make sure to check out William A. Ewing’s “We Are All Photographers Now” which is a projection of the very diverse work of anyone and everyone who submits it online and well might be the most interesting show in the festival.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Film Review: Extreme Movie

If you’re locked in a foreign prison camp and your captors have reduced you to the bare essentials of human existence they might just use the new DVD release, Extreme Movie to push you past the brink of sanity. The film is incredibly terrible with nearly no redeeming qualities whatsoever. What is truly ponderous is how such a large group of talent could produce such a large steaming pile of excrement, in fact the only extreme thing about the movie is how extremely difficult it is to sit through. The film credits a plethora of writers (who may or may not have sold their soul to the devil and done this film to fulfill the contract) including Saturday Night Live’s Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. It also features well known actors such as Michael Cera, Jamie Kennedy, Matthew Lillard and Frankie Muniz whose families were probably all being held hostage while the movie was being shot.

The film itself is a collection of sketches focused on teens and sex much in the style of films like Another Teen Movie, Scary Movie and well, who cares. There are sketches that work but I defy you to make it through the film to find them. In addition, the film is unrated so there are a few occasional nude scenes but most of the “edgy material” is just stupid, like crazy stupid.

The film’s failure is so all encompassing that it is hard to identify the precise fault lines of the disaster but from looking at the carnage, the film sat on a shelf for a number of years, so it appears that the problems were overt from the beginning. On a positive note, the DVD case is made out of plastic and is reusable and the back side of the DVD itself can be used as a makeshift mirror in emergencies. If you sincerely don’t like someone, it makes a really good gift.

Review for: Short & Sweet NYC

Friday, May 8, 2009

Monster by mail

If you like mail and you like monsters, here's a cool project to check out called monster by mail by Len Peralta. For $25 bucks he'll draw a monster for you based on the name you send and for an extra $10 he'll post a clip of the drawing being made up on youtube.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

DVD Review: Leonard Cohen - Live In London

Each crafted word resonates as it lingers just above the music with a deep and elegant poignancy in Leonard Cohen’s new DVD, Live in London. It takes just one song to command the viewers complete attention in this live performance as Cohen, who is now in his early 70’s, sings in his trademark bass-baritone with enormous precision. The singer shows off his tremendous stage presence with beautiful, soulful melodies, even though he might be more well-known to mainstream audiences for his writing than his actual performance (with songs like “Hallelujah” and “Suzanne” often covered).

The performance was filmed in July 2008 at London's 02 Arena and opens up with a classic rendition of “Dance Me To The End Of Love”. He follows it up with some of his trademark songs such as: “The Future”, “Bird On The Wire”, and “Everybody Knows”. The first set includes wonderful versions of “Who By Fire” and “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” featuring some outstanding accompaniment by Javier Mas on the archilaud and Dino Soldo on the harp. The first set ends with Leonard stating that it’s a privilege to be able to “gather in moments like this when so much of the world has plunged in darkness and chaos” as he introduces “Anthem”.

The second set begins with a very humble Cohen talking about growing old followed appropriately by “Tower of Song” which opens with the phrase “Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey, I ache in the places where I used to play”. The show continues with all the favorites such as: “Suzanne”, “Hallelujah”, “Democracy”, and “So Long, Marianne”. The set includes a sorrowfully smooth version of “Sisters Of Mercy” and a heavenly rendition of a song that Leonard states is more of a prayer than a song, “If It Be Your Will”, which is sung by backing vocalists Charley and Hattie Webb. The show concludes with “Closing Time” and an encore featuring “I Tried To Leave You” and an A Capella version of “Whither Thou Goest” sung by the whole band.

In all, the show is a startlingly powerful performance by Cohen who proves he is as much a brilliant singer and performer as a writer. The band which is stocked with excellent musicians is perfectly in-tune to his every moment and brings the songs alive with their musicianship and diverse instrumentation. As an added bonus the DVD comes complete with all the song lyrics which allows the viewer to go back and appreciate the subtle craft of each line.

Review for

Monday, May 4, 2009

Film Review: Yes Man

Positivity has its benefits and it’s also totally entertaining when you watch Jim Carrey make the theory a reality in the newly released DVD Yes Man. The film is based on the true story of English humorist Danny Wallace’s theory of saying yes in situations where you would normally say no, which he chronicled in a book by the same name and the theory is truly interesting and wondrous. The film, which was directed by Peyton Reed (The Break-up and Upright Citizens Brigade), wins the audience over quickly and is absolutely fun to watch as it pairs a classic wacky Jim Carrey character in Carl Allen with an onslaught of weird and unlikely scenarios that do hammer home the concept of staying positive in life and making yourself open to opportunities.

The plot is a bit expected (in addition to being a bit too similar to earlier Carrey films like Liar Liar) as Carl, the tightly wound loan officer who denies everything by day living almost hermetically, accidentally encounters an old friend who opens him up to the theory with a pamphlet but the cast does a great job in making it fresh and once the action begins, Carrey falls right into place with his trademark silliness and boundless energy. Zooey Deschanel plays Allison, the off-beat artsy musician love interest who pops up to give Carrey’s character a ride and later reunites with him accidentally as he says yes to attend a show by her band "Munchausen by Proxy" (who are actually pretty good despite being a fictional band). Crazed wackiness ensues as Carrey’s character says yes to a Persian Wife finder website, guitar lessons, flying lessons, Korean lessons, and countless loans which he approves for everyone who enters and of course it all catches up with him.

The film won’t be put into the great American Canon any time soon but it’s perfect for a rainy day and is one of those films you can watch repeatedly without exhausting. The extras are also fun to watch as Carrey does most of his own stunts for the film including bungee jumping off a bridge and come on, who doesn’t love the Jim Carrey outtakes?

The review was featured on Short & Sweet NYC.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Up on the Roof

I was listening to some classic Beatles today and looked up this famous last performance of theirs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Photographer Sterling Andrews Interview

I recently interviewed California based photographer Sterling Andrews about her most recent project, Gooseberries, for the Short & Sweet NYC blog and I wanted to share it. Gooseberries is a series of portraits taken of musicians in the local Silver Lake & Echo Park area along with hand painted backdrops and props, is about to be released as a limited edition set of 11”x11” prints along with a DVD of time-lapse videos and interviews through Eenie Meenie Records. The project features unique whimsical photos of bands such as the Silversun Pickups, Rogue Wave, and Great Northern and will be issued in LP packaging.

Gooseberries is such an interesting project that is truly multi-media from painting the set to photographing the bands and producing the stop motion short films- where did the idea come from? How about the name?

I began painting my own backdrops early last year. Something like that is actually pretty difficult to pitch to a band - when one hears 'backdrop,' one is apt to think of glamour shots or laser portraits or something - so I made a time lapse video and kept it on my iPod. When I approached someone with whom I wanted to work, I'd show them the video. The project was meant to draw attention to the process of creation as a driving force in all artists - which we so often forget when we’re tweaking and twisting and obsessing over the final product. There’s a short story by Chekhov in which a man discusses his uncle, who - after years of miserly living and dreaming of having a farm with gooseberry bushes - finally harvests a plateful of these bitter, yet somewhat bland berries. The story is a gorgeous way of illustrating that sometimes it isn’t the thing itself - rather, the idea of the thing - that truly drives us.

What was the process like in creating each one of these pieces? How long did it take?

I started with a color palette for each shoot. I knew I wanted Great Northern’s to be red and black. I knew I wanted Earlimart’s to be shades of blue. I knew that Afternoons ‘needed’ green with flecks of red. I don’t know why, but those colors just made sense - and in my mind there weren’t any other options. If Rogue Wave had told me that they wanted to be shot with purple and orange (I used yellow and black) I would have drawn a blank. Once the backdrop was painted, I'd build from there. Each shot in Gooseberries is the final product of about two days' work - one day of prep (painting took about 4-6 hours, dressing the set took an additional 4-8 hours, including shopping and driving around town to borrow or purchase props). All of the images were shot between May and August of 2008.

It’s great to see a photographer pick up a paintbrush- what is your background in fine art and photography? How different is this from your previous work?

I'd taken a few art classes while growing up, and worked for a friend of the family who was a trompe l'oeil artist when I was in my early teens. I also worked for a children's musical theatre company for a few years and painted many of the sets for the kids' productions. Painting was always something I liked doing, but I never thought of myself as an artist. It was sort of the same thing with photography; I didn't think of myself as a photographer until I realized I had boxes upon boxes of negatives and proofs in my closet and a camera with me at all times.

How much of a plan did you have going in to each shoot? How did you plan things? Were there any happy accidents?

I knew what I wanted from the beginning - it was just a matter of getting the right positioning and expressions. When I shot the Pity Party, I had originally imagined doing a sort of Lawrence of Arabia meets deco heiress/ Rudolph Valentino in 'The Sheik' theme, but I hadn't the time to find a costume for M oddly enough, he and Heisenflei had a very similar idea, and M brought a scarf and headband with him - and they were completely ready to do some of the over-the-top theatrical poses I had in mind.

Each band’s photograph appears very individual, was that done intentionally? Do the backgrounds you created relate specifically to the bands at all? Did the bands add any input?

The concepts had little to do with the bands themselves; I had these images and these colors in mind, and I wanted to use fun, creative people as my subjects - people who knew one another and had more of a bond than a mish-mash of models. That was, admittedly, a bit jarring to some of the bands at first - most of the time when a photographer is shooting a band, he or she is working for the band, and the band has a lot of artistic freedom. This was different - the shoots weren't about the bands, they were about the project. I really wanted the final products to have the same feeling as those stiff, posed oil portraits which were commonly commissioned in Europe by elite families in the 18th and 19th centuries, so I kept my subjects moving in ways that felt very unnatural, and didn't really 'represent' the bands the way they might see themselves. Of course, that makes for a miserable shoot, so we’d shoot for about twenty minutes, then take a break and have a drink and relax for a half hour, then go back to shooting.

How did you choose the bands to be photographed? How close-knit are the Silver Lake & Echo Park music scenes (I’ve never heard of them)? How did the bands like the photographs?

I had already worked with about half of the bands, the rest - like Le Switch and The Henry Clay People - were people I'd met and seemed as if they'd be fun to work with. The only band I didn't know was One Trick Pony; I saw them open for Rademacher while I was in the middle of shooting Gooseberries and really loved what I heard, so I asked them to be a part of it, as well. The Silver Lake and Echo Park scenes are integrated enough to where I'm no longer surprised when I find out that someone I know from, say, my old apartment building in Korea Town is close friends with one of the bands I just shot. When people think of Los Angeles, they often think of Hollywood - so competitive and cold and snarky. But the creative folks on the East Side really enjoy being inspired by one another. They play on one another's records, they talk about their projects without trepidation, and are genuinely excited - not threatened - by the creativity around them. They're very supportive; sometimes the bands even liked the photographs more than I did.

How exactly is the final product being put out? It seems like an interesting format? Vinyl?

I didn't want to make just another coffee table book; Gooseberries is a collection of loose prints in a gatefold LP sleeve, and the included DVD is mounted on a hand-painted vinyl 12". I feel as if the importance of the tactile experience is waning in the digital age; remember what it was like to buy a record and tear it open to reveal photos or fold-outs or fun surprises included in the packaging? This project is sort of an ode to that. Open it up, pull it apart, have fun with it; that's what it's for!

The stop-motion films of the shoots are really fun, where did that idea come from? How much of a collaboration were they?

When I showed my first time-lapse video to Rademacher, they suggested doing a music video. Brad Basmajian (who was in Rademacher at the time) used the time-lapse footage from their shoot to make the video for “What I Want.” We liked working together, so we made one for Henry Clay People and Earlimart as well. My friend Ryan Reichenfeld stepped in to co-direct and edit the video for "Like I Needed" (Rogue Wave).

How do you feel about the finished product? Are you particularly proud or happy with any of the photographs in the series?

I really love the image of Le Switch with the silver ping-pong balls, and the Death to Anders shot with the pears makes me smile. I also thought that Jeff Mizushima did an amazing job of shooting and editing the short documentary for the DVD; that guy is so talented.

What’s your advice to young artists and photographers out there? How did you break into the industry? What’s your creative philosophy?

Admittedly, it's much more difficult to 'break in' now than it was when I started shooting. Back then, digital photography was a very new thing (my first digital SLR was 5 megapixels and cost $1500 for the body); if there were any other photographers at shows, they were shooting film, and film is expensive. Now, almost everyone is taking photographs with their iPhones or 'prosumer' digital SLRs. When I was starting out, I always tried to be nice, and to pay attention. I networked with other photographers and compared my shots to theirs. If they looked virtually the same, I thought about what I could have done differently. I never thought that a camera gave me the right to be intrusive. I made friends with tour managers, stage managers, security guards, venue staff, and the people who waited for hours in line to get a spot at the front of the stage. If anyone asked me not to shoot something - even if I knew I had the right to do so - I wouldn't. At least, not until they weren't looking.

How long did the whole project take? What did you learn from this process? What was most rewarding about it? What’s in store next for you?

The whole project took about a year to complete. I learned a lot about taking risks, pitching ideas, collaborating, and - surprisingly enough - event planning. Putting together the release show for Gooseberries was a lot of (exciting/fun) work; I almost felt as if I'd gotten married. I've just begun the research phase for my next project - and I'm having a gleefully childish time doing so. I plan on using my newfound collaboration and planning resources to get involved with some charity and fund raising events in the coming months. There are so many great organizations that are hurting right now. I mean - really, if one can help - why not?

A sample of Sterling’s work can be found on her website and for a glimpse at the project check out the Gooseberries blog.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tim Needles: A Year in the Life Opening

I just wanted to thank everyone for coming out to Toast last night for my art opening. It was great to see so many people and I hope you all enjoyed the show. The work will be up through May 5 and we are also going to have a special opening for the Strictly Students Film Festival complete with a stand-up comedy performance on April 23 at 7pm. So if you missed the opening stop down for breakfast or lunch (I highly recommend the Original Breakfast Burrito and Crunchy French Toast with Bananas and Raspberries) or come down for the film festival event. Also special thanks to Terry and everyone at Toast and Rob and Allen at FRESH for hosting the show!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Album Review: Dan Deacon's Bromst

Here's a really interesting musician that I reviewed recently for Kevchino. His live performances seem like a totally interactive experience and the new album is a must hear polarizer for music lovers.

Innovative is the all important word when one listens to Dan Deacon’s new album Bromst, but in addition to pushing the envelope, the music is textural, melodic, and downright fascinating. One day after the nuclear bombs fall we are going to need something to listen to while we are running through our futuristic landscape and snorting electricity and Dan Deacon has stepped up with the perfect soundtrack. Deacon is a well respected electronic musician who was born in nearby Babylon, NY and is well known for his digital soundscapes and musical experimentation but his new album offers listeners an interesting medium between popular music and sonic art.

The album is intense in its quick tempoed percussive layering of instruments such as rapid fire player pianos and sped-up audio samples and it sounds a bit like life in fast forward. Deacon also does a great job in slowing it down at times for pause after what at times is like a 3-4 minute audial orgasm. “Snookered” is one great example of this and one of the best tracks on the album with its down tempo beginning that ramps up progressively as layers build. The song feels almost tribal at times with a startling percussive melody that has tremendous range and simple but wonderfully universal lyrics. “Wet Wings” is another such track that works on a much more base, spiritual level as it builds from a chanted, folk sample which builds to become nothing but a lingering chord with slight variations, it’s a interesting note towards the end of the album.

Deacon’s bread and butter though are his high energy sound-madness tracks such as: “Red F”, “Get Older”, and notably “Slow With Horns/ Run for Your Life” which scare old people and entice music lovers. Some might dismiss the album as gimmicky but on closer listening, the album is truly a musical wonder in its originality and blend of ancient and modern with seamless success. The songs are musically virtuous but not for the casual music fan due to their occasional abrasive nature and startling lack of familiarity.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are film trailer

One of the best children's books of all time, Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, is being made into a film by director Spike Jonze. I'm really happy to see how the preview looks (especially with one of my favorite Arcade Fire songs) because the story and illustrations in the book are epic and I was hoping the film wouldn't kill it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Flash MGMT

Undead Cyclops Boss from The Behemoth on Vimeo. I'm a huge fan of the latest version of Adobe Flash and watching Dan Paladin draw in flash along with some MGMT music makes it all the more cool. Here Dan creates the Undead Cyclops boss for the Xbox game Castle Crashers.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tim Needles Art Show

Next week is the opening for my latest solo photography show, "A Year in the Life" which includes a photograph from each day of 2008 using an inexpensive point and shoot camera. The show is presented by the FRESH art collaborative and opens on April 9th at 7:30pm at Toast in Port Jefferson and run through April.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Interview with Anthony Gonzales of M83

Recently I had an opportunity to interview Anthony Gonzales of the French electronic band M83 for Kevchino. M83, named for a distant galaxy, was formed in 2001 by Anthony along with Nicolas Fromageau (who has since left) and early on they were compared to shoegazing bands like the Cocteau Twins. Since their first album in 2001, they have released four more, and their sound has continued to progress from spoken words with music to full-out singing and greater popular and dance sensibilities. Their most recent album, 2008’s Saturdays=Youth, mixed its 1980s film soundtrack quality with a blend of old and new. I had a chance to speak to Anthony Gonzales in New York during M83’s latest tour.

TN: I wanted to start off by asking you about France and America. In America there is a common belief that the French don’t really like America or American values. As an artist who really seems to understand both France and America, I wanted to know what your perception is of that belief.

AG: You think that France doesn’t like America?

TN: I don’t really know, but many Americans believe that the French don’t like America.

AG: No, no, that’s not true. When you are French and you are a kid growing up in France and you are listening to American music and watching the American television, you are eating the same food, you are buying the same products, so, no, I think we have the same kind of culture even if we grew up in a different country. I think it is absolutely not true. [laughing]

TN: That’s interesting. Maybe it’s just a misperception. How do the French feel about the election of Barack Obama?

AG: I think it is a great move for France, and for America first. Our French people were really active in this election. I think it is going to maybe change things for the world and the U.S. and the connection between the world and the United States, so it is absolutely going to be a good thing for everyone.

TN: I wanted to ask you a little bit about your hometown of Antibes in the South of France. The area has always attracted artists and creative people. How has it influenced you as an artist?

AG: Well, it is difficult to say because it’s just a beautiful area; there is the sea and the beaches. But the thing is, there is no life out there, especially for the music. When you are a teenager and you want to go and see shows, it’s almost impossible because nobody, like, no band comes to play the South of France. I think it’s one of the negative parts of living in the South of France. Otherwise, it’s fantastic. I love it, especially when you are a musician, ’cos it’s really quiet and you can really focus on your music, but it’s a bit boring. [laughs]

TN: Your music definitely has a sense of the cinematic. I wanted to know if you ever had any aspirations of actually making a film along with the music yourself one day?

AG: I don’t know if I’d be capable of doing a movie, but I am definitely interested in making soundtracks in the future for movies. My brother is a movie director, actually, so he’ll do the movies and I’ll do the music.

TN: How much does having a brother in film help you understand the world of cinema?

AG: Oh yes, when I was a kid, he showed me plenty of good movies, and because of it now I am huge fan of cinema. I can’t live without watching movies and stuff like that. It’s definitely a more classic influence than the music.

TN: I wanted to ask you a bit about your new album, Saturdays=Youth. It’s a bit of a departure from your previous work, a little more upbeat. What was going through your mind when you were making it?

AG: I guess the first thing was to do something different from the previous album. That was my main concern, just trying to come up with something different. I wanted to try something more pop. That was the reason why, working on this album, there are a lot more vocals on it. But I guess that’s the thing—I just wanted to create something different, sort of like keeping my sounds and keeping my identity, but also adding something different to this album

TN: Do you see it as a challenge at all when you are adding more vocals and pushing the sound forward? Does that come naturally to you, or was it a difficult process?

AG: It was difficult for me because I’m not a singer; I’ve never been a singer. I’ve been doing it in the studio, but it is difficult for me singing live because I’m not really good. That’s the reason why on most of my albums I am singing with other people, you know? [laughing]

TN: Right, on this most recent album, you worked with a couple of new musicians like singer Morgan Kibby of the Los Angeles band the Romanovs. How did that come about?

AG: I was just looking for a girl with an 80s style in her voice. When I first heard Morgan’s voice, I really had a crush on her voice. She was, like, perfect for this album. She has the voice I was looking for, and I am so glad that we met each other. It went pretty well. I mean, it was a good experience with her. She is a professional. She speaks French as well, so it was very easy to talk to her and to explain what I wanted from her, and she is coming along on tour with us. We started to work together, and now she is a really good friend of mine. Yeah, she is great. I love her.

TN: It’s funny. She has a background in films too, doesn’t she?

AG: Yeah, she works on trailers and soundtracks too.

TN: With the new album, there is definitely an obvious 80s influence. I was wondering if there was ever a fear of making it too 80s and not having a modern-enough feel to it?

AG: Yeah, that was the trap. We really tried to make it as modern as possible. That was the reason why I said I wanted to keep my identity on this album and not treat it like a tribute to the 80s music, because a lot of bands have already done that, so it was useless to do the same thing.

TN: In the past you had a chance to collaborate with many musicians and do some great remixes with them too. Are there any musicians out there that you would really like to work with in the future?

AG: I love the voice of the Chairlift’s singer. Chairlift’s album is one of my favorites this year. I would love to work with them.

TN: Your music has a lot of variation from ambient instrumentals, to dance, to the more poppy sound with vocals. Do you try to embrace the variation and the experimentation, or do you see yourself building towards something?

AG: I mean, I always start with creating a melody, and after that I’ll start with tracks and tracks of music. That is the way I do music (laughing), so it doesn’t have a chance in the beginning.

TN: Your music often features some spoken word segments and different ways of using words in general. What is the inspiration behind that?

AG: I guess it’s movies. Sometimes I just want to create movie scenes in my albums, and that is the reason why I am doing that. I am always interested in and inspired by movies.

TN: Have you given any thought to what direction you might go next? I know you are on tour right now. Is it a slow process when you are coming up with the idea for your next project?

AG: Yeah, it is very slow (laughing). You said it; we are on tour right now, and my head is, like, focused on the tour. I really don’t have the time to work on music, but I definitely have a bunch of ideas in my head for the next album, but it is too early. My head is still in this album for now, and I am going to wait a while before I starting working on it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Film Review: As The Technics Spin

The art of hitting the turntables is the subject of the new documentary by producer DJ Rob Swift (of the X-Ecutioners, Ill Insanity, and Mike Patton’s Peeping Tom) and director Eljay Williams in the new film As The Technics Spin. The film looks at the history of the DJ and gives an insiders look into how turntablists put together their routines. The film cuts together great visual montages of DJ’s scratching and performing live with narrative elements featuring Swift discussing the giants of the turntable and how he works.

This documentary differs from some of the others out there because it is a bit more personal focusing mostly on Rob Swift and getting into the mechanics of how specific routines were put together from conception to performance. The film does make a good point in illustrating how turntablists can elevate themselves to the level of musicians and watching footage of Swift scratch onstage with Bob James and his band during the Tokyo Jazz Festival proved the point well. Rob speaks a great deal about his philosophy, development, and the mental preparation it takes to create the work and how he works as an artist. He also gives a glimpse of what it’s like preparing for a battle and how the creative process can be aided from setbacks.

The biggest downside of the film is in the editing as certain points tend to get a bit repetitive at times but the film does do a good job in showing the nuts and bolts of the tables and the work that gets put into them. Sometimes the behind the scenes lingo becomes Latin and the viewer can get a bit lost but if you are interested in the craft it’s valuable knowledge. One great feature is the extras included on the DVD, which show some highly polished performances for television along with some great-varied live material.

The film’s rough style fits the material well and it really gives an interesting look into how much work it takes to produce a great turntable routine. When Swift is in the zone in one of his routines it’s nice to have the insight of how it was put together and what led to each decision. The DJ is never short of passion for his art and in sharing some of his mindset, it gives the audience a very personal account of his work. The film is really perfect for fans of the DJ who want to know more about the process but Swift’s obsessive, unstoppable determination in elevating his craft is something any viewer can relate to.

This review was originally posted on Short & Sweet NYC