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

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Film Review: Pride and Glory

If you know a bunch of guys who love smart movies but are not very smart themselves point them towards a copy of “Pride and Glory” starring Edward Norton (as Ray Tierney)and Colin Farrell (as Jimmy Eagan) because they’ll love it (and this goes double if they’re Irish). The film, written and directed by Long Island native Gavin O'Connor features a predictable story of good cop, bad cop on the rugged streets of New York and this time it’s all in the family with Jon Voight playing papa cop. The film is entertaining to watch but after foreseeing the plot in the first scene, dealing with some unrealistic plot elements (like having so many cops in the same family under the same command), and sitting through some awful acting (there is more to acting like a New York cop then shouting the F-bomb) the suspension of disbelief was lost.

The only real saving grace in the film is Edward Norton’s performance which makes the movie almost watchable. It’s really disappointing because the film has potential but falls short in so many ways and is actually frustrating to watch at times. The cast doesn’t help the situation much because Colin Farrell never really sells his character well and plays Colin Farrell imitating an Irish cop rather than a true character. There is also quite a bit of inconsistencies in the characters motivations and times when their actions seem totally unbelievable. As the dénouement the film totally lacks any real ending instead cutting the story short with a fade out into the sunset forcing the audience to surmise what may’ve happened at which point I just wanted the building they were in to explode to have a sense of closure.

In all, the movie is perfect for a long flight or to irritate relatives who you want to leave but not much else. One positive note is that there was some things one might learn from watching a film like this which is that filmmaking is harder than it looks and that if you’re in a room with a drug dealer and someone asks for a potato- run (because they use it as a cheap silencer). Pride and Glory is a perfect gift for your dumb uncle or a friend you might not think that much of intellectually but I’d rather have spent the 2 hours on line for a much better film.

This review was originally posted on Short & Sweet NYC

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2009 Call for Entries for Strictly Students Film Festival

It's time for this year's Call for Entries for the 5th Anniversary Strictly Students Film Festival and the deadline for films is April 3 and it's free to enter so check out the website for more information:

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Mentalists play Kids using their iPhones

Kevchino posted a crazy video of the Mentalists plaing the MGMT song "Kids" using apps on their iPhones and iPod Touches. The apps used were downloaded from the Apple store (Ocarina, Retro Synth, miniSynth, and DigiDrummer Lite). Oh, technology...what next? Where's my Marilyn Monroebot?