Friday, October 17, 2008

RICHARD SWIFT Feature/Interview

Feature, LA Weekly

Extended Interview- Richard Swift "Not a rock n' roll romantic"

Download his new EP, Ground Trouble Jaw, for free Here

Richard Swift. Photograph from the album Richard Swift As Onasis.


The prolific singer, whose music defies categorization, creates music in his own, Swiftian style.

By Rena Kosnett, Published on October 16, 2008

Fans of Harry Nilsson know that there is only one genre under which his varied catalog can be properly filed: the “Harry Nilsson” genre. Take, for example, his 1971 album Son of Schmilsson: He jumps from Christmas song to droning love story to McCartney-esque pop number to a theatrical number about a spaceman. Nilsson’s bemusing and eclectic tendencies warrant their own category.

The same can be said of Minnesota-born Richard Swift. Like Nilsson, Swift glides fluidly among divergent styles, groups together bold tunes like a clothing designer mixing polka dots and stripes. The evidence is everywhere, from his instrumental album Music From the Films of R/Swift (released under the moniker Instruments of Science and Technology) to his recent Richard Swift as Onasis double EP and his newest, the five-song Ground Trouble Jaw.

Released as a free download in August, Ground Trouble Jaw opens with “Would You,” an airy, warm tune that suggests the Penguins’ doo-wop classic “Earth Angel” — kind of like the Mothers of Invention on their 1968 album Cruising With Ruben & the Jets. Swift continues this mood on the second track, “Lady Luck,” but the tone shifts with the intro of “The Bully,” a funny, monotone spoken-word song in the style of Nilsson’s ironic love song “Joy” or the Modern Lovers’ “I’m Straight.” The final two tracks, “The Original Thought” and “A Song for Milton Feher” (about the famed dance instructor and relaxation coach), channel White Album joviality and Nilsson quirkiness. Swift spoke with L.A. Weekly recently, via telephone from his Oregon home.

L.A. Weekly: Was there a strategic purpose, or a goal, in releasing Ground Trouble Jaw for free?

Richard Swift: I think it was void of either of those two things. I was trying to get around the business of releasing a record. Dressed Up for the Letdown [released February 2007] was finished about a year and a half before it was even released because I was going through negotiations with Polydor the whole time. I grew so tired of waiting around for all these records to be released, you know? Polydor was this major-label situation, always asking you to change stuff on your records, which I was definitely uncomfortable with. I feel really fortunate I was able to get out of my contract with Polydor and have Secretly Canadian put out my records. It made me feel happy about making music again.

With the digital release, I was just trying to break... not the mold with the industry, but to break my mold, to try to do something exciting and last-minute, and not have this big record buildup, like [in a deep, movie-trailer-guy voice] “You just wait until February ’08, when this record drops, it’s gonna change your world.”

There’s something really disarming about just being able to say, “Oh, hey, I’m putting out a record tomorrow.” It deflates the romance of rock and roll, which I appreciate because I’m not a big rock and roll romantic.

L.A. Weekly: I find myself missing the accompanying artwork with this EP. The visual material with your other records is so interesting.

Richard Swift: I do miss that. I mainly just listen to LPs, so you’ve always got this 12-inch object to look at; but there are the Ground Trouble Jaw films, and I do feel like the films are the moving artwork for the EP. Maybe it’s goofy of me to put out footage of me fucking around with a theremin and drinking beer with my buddies, but it’s also somewhat therapeutic — there’s a fondness there. The cover for the new Swift record, which will be titled The Atlantic Ocean, is going to be the most involved album artwork that [video artist] Lance [Troxel] and I have ever done.

L.A. Weekly: One of the tracks on GTJ is “A Song for Milton Feher.” I’m wondering about your connection to him, because my mother was listening to that relaxation record of his while she was going through menopause. Some of his quotes are really nice and meditative: “Feel yourself pressed into the earth,” “Feel the earth holding you up,” “Make contact with the ground.”

Richard Swift: Strangely enough, Milton’s a friend of mine. He’s 96, 97 years old. He is genuinely one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever been able to hang out with. How we met is phenomenal. You can never write this kind of shit. After my father heard the first record I ever made in L.A., he’s this Spanish guy, and he said [with a Spanish accent], “Oh, Richard, this sounds like you’re walking without trying too hard.” And I was, like, “Well, that makes sense, because I’m going to name the record Walking Without Effort.” Then, probably a week after I finished Walking Without Effort, I was doing my regular thing, flipping through record bins, and I came across this Milton Feher album, Relaxing Body and Mind (1962). I turned it over to look at the back, and one of the audio chapters was titled “Walking Without Effort,” and I was, like, “What!” So I bought the record, took it home, and about a month after that, I started having a dark period of panic attacks. So I started listening to that record in a different light, hoping it would help me to relax my broken mind.

I wanted to sample Milton’s voice for an Instruments of Science and Technology track, so I had to call him to clear the rights for that, and we started talking quite a bit, and we’ve been chatting on the phone ever since. And just this last year, we finally met up. He lives in New York, and I was there recording with Mark Ronson, so before the session started, I was, like, “Oh, I gotta call Milton and let him know I’m here.” Turned out I was staying two blocks away from his apartment! So we met, and I had about a six to seven-hour session with him. I can’t begin to explain how a connection like that works. It seemed life-altering just to be able to talk to him regularly, but to be able to spend a considerable amount of time together. If you wrote that in a movie, no one would ever imagine that it could be true.

L.A. Weekly: Was it a surprise that Stereolab asked you to tour with them?

Richard Swift: Yeah, it was, I have no idea how I got on their radar. I am a big fan of their music, so I feel really fortunate that they asked me to be on their tour. In the last couple of years, I’ve been able to tour with a lot of bands that I have a lot of respect for, and Stereolab’s definitely up there. It started a year ago touring with Wilco, and recording at their loft, making my little documentary films there, and now a year later touring with Stereolab. It’s surreal.

L.A. Weekly: Did you and Jeff Tweedy have a personal connection before he asked you to tour with Wilco?

Richard Swift: There’s a show in England called "Later With Jools Holland," and I was on the show when Wilco was on the show, and so was LCD Soundsystem, and a couple other English bands whose names I am not going to mention. Before I sang my song, Pat [Sansone] from Wilco came over and was like, “Hey Swift, I have your record and I really like it. I’m really happy that you’re here.” So we did our songs and were waiting around, because after the show the bands have the opportunity to re-record their song if they want. So this specific English band tried re-recording their song like five times, it was awful to begin with. So the Wilco guys and I were sitting around really annoyed, and Jeff and I were able to be old sarcastic American curmudgeons together, just like, “Oh, these young kids,” blah blah blah, and we had a couple beers- well, Jeff didn’t have any, he had diet cokes, but I had a couple beers. And we shot the shit, and I just chocked it up to being a cool experience, but five days later it was set that I would go on a month long tour with them across the states. Jeff was aware of my situation—at that point, I had been on the road for two or three years—so it was encouraging of him to ask me to come record at his studio. To have somebody I respect believe in what I was doing—it was a huge shot in the arm.

L.A. Weekly: Why did you decide to drop the "Ochoa" from your name?

Richard Swift: It has to do with me never being completely comfortable with that last name… It gets more into personal family stuff. But Swift is my middle name and my mother’s maiden name, and it was what my mother wanted my first name to be. I was raised, for a large part of my life, by my grandfather Clifford Swift, and he was quite a phenomenal piano player when he was younger. But his family got sick of him practicing all the time, and kind of crushed his spirit and told him not to play anymore, so part of me feels like I’m carrying on that legacy for him, doing something he would’ve liked to do but never had the chance.

L.A. Weekly: What are the differences between the music you make under the Instruments of Science and Technology name and the Richard Swift name, and the older Dicky Ochoa and Company music?

Richard Swift: Ultimately, the old Dicky Ochoa and Company stuff was me trying to pay my rent. I didn’t feel like I was really involved. I felt like I was a studio musician on my own record. The Instruments, and Swift as Onasis music is what I care about. There are definite stylistic differences—there are different elements and experimentations with each project. To me, it wouldn’t make sense to mix Instruments and Swift music or Onasis and Instruments music. In retrospect, though, I think a lot of people were getting annoyed that I was putting out all these side projects.

L.A. Weekly: Who was getting annoyed?

Richard Swift: Well, people would send me press clippings that would say, ‘I don’t know, Instruments Of Science and Technology, and Richard Swift as Onasis aren’t as good as Richard Swift records.’ Well, you know what, fuckers, all of these are Richard Swift records. I’m so surprised at press sometimes, or even blogs, because we live in a day and age when everyone has an iPod or iPod shuffle, myself included, and to think that an artist would only put out one type of record in their career is very narrow. I think most artists should be held to a standard of really pushing themselves to try all sorts of things.

If you look at artists like John Lennon and Neil Young, they made their weird electronic records and '50s records, and the critics panned them, but they had the backbone to push themselves, and to fight boredom. When you put out records, you’re automatically creating a stereotype—from that first record, you become a cartoon. So I find it very inspiring when I can see these musicians trying to develop new music after such long-term careers.

Bob Dylan’s had a recent resurgence, but in the '80s nobody gave a shit about Bob Dylan. If you talked to people about Bob Dylan, they would say, “Oh, his old records were good but his new records are shit. He’s never gonna put out another good record.” But now, he’s making some fantastic music.

L.A. Weekly: Did having kids change the way you approach music?

Richard Swift: I don’t know. I would never walk up to the mic and say, “I wrote this one for my daughter.” But in “The Songs Of National Freedom” there’s a line that says “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive/So tell my daughters not to cry,” and that’s not just about having kids but it’s also about understanding generational differences, and similarities. I have a lot of respect for guys who play rock n’ roll and then go home and have BBQs with their neighbors and spend time with their kids. Having a family is amazing, and really good for me because I do tend to be self-destructive and they keep me in check. Tom Waits is a family man, and he’s making phenomenal records.

L.A. Weekly: And he’s written a lot of music with his wife.

Richard Swift: That’s so cool. I wish my wife was even remotely musically inclined. She paints, though. There are a lot of guys making music now, living the rock n’ roll lifestyle and they act like pricks to everyone they know, and I just don’t want to be involved in that. It’s not appealing to me at all. I don’t give a fuck about Sid and Nancy or any of that. What’s appealing to me is living in a small town, and being with some really fine people, and being with my special lady friend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

******ISAAC HAYES*******

Isaac Hayes

Obituary in LA RECORD.

L.A. RECORD’s Rena Kosnett conducted what may have been Isaac Hayes’ final interview for us last week. She sends the following obituary:

Isaac Hayes died today, Sunday August 10th, 2008. I had the great fortune to interview Isaac by phone while he was at his home in Memphis a little over a week ago in anticipation of his headlining spot on the upcoming Sunset Junction festival bill. I was ecstatic for the week leading up to the interview, and stayed ecstatic for the week following it, so not surprisingly I received 4 voicemails, 6 text messages, and 9 emails from people informing me of the sad news.

Isaac was a one-man messianic movement who spoke the gospel of groove and spread the sermon of soul throughout American culture. He served to liberate and advocate American funk and human sexuality the way Timothy Leary articulated acid, the way Hunter S. Thompson obliterated objectivism. I was asked frequently after the interview if I had questioned Isaac about South Park or Scientology, and the answer was ‘No.’ Not because I was afraid or felt he would be uncomfortable, but because what was most significant in Isaac’s life—what was most groundbreaking—was his music. For the few moments I had him, that’s what I wanted to stick to.

Isaac was self-taught. He was a visionary. He went to the recording studio dressed in gold chains and bright green suits when everyone else was wearing black turtlenecks and gray trouser socks. Isaac worked his way up from being a poor meat packer—even his obituary includes some innuendo!—in rural Tennessee to being the driving creative force behind Stax, which, alongside Motown and Sun, has been one of American music’s most critical labels.

His 1969 album Hot Buttered Soul changed how music was produced, opening soul and pop recordings to more interpretation and spoken interludes, and paving the way for Barry White’s and Millie Jackson’s silky mid-song eroticisms—now a staple, and indeed nearly a cliché, of R&B music. But even before Isaac’s throaty classics made it to the turntable, he was heard on the airwaves through the voices of Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, and Carla Thomas. Isaac, mainly with his creative partner David Porter, wrote the hits “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” “When Something is Wrong with My Baby”, and “Soul Sister Brown Sugar,” among others, and his orchestral, horn, organ, and bass scores inspired the soundtracks for countless films, blaxploitation and otherwise.

What struck me most during our interview, despite the clear struggles he was working through due to his 2006 stroke, was his exaltation. He was excited about playing the Sunset Junction, excited about his new album, and gracious with his laughter, time, and his unmatched ability to serenade. Even through a cell phone headset, hearing him sing made me swoon.

We have lost our Soul Man, our Black Moses, and his deep voice and deeper vitality will surely be missed.


Interview in LA RECORD, August 2008

L.A. RECORD’s Rena Kosnett interviewed Isaac Hayes last week in preparation for his performance later this month at Sunset Junction. We were saddened today to learn of his passing in Memphis. As far as we know, this is his final interview.

Rolling Stone named ‘Soul Man’ as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Do you think most people realize you and David Porter wrote that song?

Maybe, maybe not. Some people, they don’t connect it—they think it was Sam and Dave, because they made it well known.

You said previously that you wrote it in response to the the 12th Street Riots in Detroit—about ‘man’s struggle to rise above his present conditions’?

Yeah because, you know, the riots were going on and we were watching it happen on TV, and we saw that they had written on the walls of the black-owned stores ‘Soul Man.’ And I said, ‘“Soul Man,” that’s a good title.’ At that time in the ‘60s, there was all kindsa crazy stuff goin’ on. That’s why I wrote it, you know.

The Sunset Junction festival started as a way to bring the Latino community and gay community together in East L.A. after several instances of violence. Would you consider writing a ‘Soul Man’ type of song for the gay and Latino struggles?

Oh, um, I’m workin’ on that one. [laughing] I’ve been working on my new album. I’ll just tell you what, though—this new album that’s coming out, it’s good. It’s probably coming out next year.

Is it all new material?

Maybe some, and some is redone.

Any classics?

Lemme see. Maybe a song by the name of [breaking into a serenade] ‘Tonight’s the night, the tiiiime is right, the things I’ve waited for so long…’


That tune is good.

Many credit the musical influence you and David Porter had on Stax with saving the label, but some think your leaving almost killed them. Do you think these are fair judgments?

At that time, maybe so. At Stax, there were many things happening then—many struggles and complications. But my new album is coming out on Stax, so I’m still working good with them.

I read in Peter Guralnick’s book Sweet Soul Music that David Porter tried to sell you life insurance when you first met him. Did you buy any?

I didn’t buy any insurance, but he did try to sell me some. He gave me a good deal. I met David long before I started at Stax. I was singing with a group called the Del Reels, and he sang with the King Tones. And we both played for a talent contest in Memphis.

Who won?

I won it one week and then he won it the next week, and we started working together after that.

Do you remember what song you sang in the talent contest?

I think it was ‘Looking Back,’ by Nat King Cole.

Your first Stax session was playing keyboard for Otis Redding. Was it an easy process to develop songs with him?

Well, Otis had a way of doing things—he would write the songs at the same time he was singing them. He would start going [breaking into song and imitating Otis Redding] ‘Na na na na, you got to, got to got to…’ and he was writing the songs at the same time. With me and David… there was an understanding we had between us. With ‘Soul Man,’ he said, ‘Look, man, let’s just do it.’ He said, ‘Let’s write something.’ And we did. That’s just how it worked.

Do you have a favorite Burt Bacharach tune?

I did a lot of songs by Bacharach and Hal David. ‘Walk On By’ was a good one. And ‘The Windows of the World.’

Most of the early Stax records were produced communally. Was it a big transition at the label to start thinking about music as a product?

When we started getting credit for the things we did, I thought that was good, because the songs had a lot of personal meaning. Now, they’re just rapping and all that stuff…

You don’t like current hip-hop music?

I like Alicia Keyes. Mary J. Blige.

You like the ladies.

Well, yeeeah. Anthony Hamilton is also good. I like him too.

Who should really be called ‘Black Moses’: you, Harriet Tubman, or Marcus Garvey? There can’t be three, can there?

I got my name as ‘Black Moses’ from Dino Woodward, a pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York [and one-time Stax executive]. He called me Moses, and I said, ‘Hey, that’s sacrilegious, baby!’ But he just kept up with it, so I was like, ‘OK, I get it.’ I finally gave in.

For the cover photo of Juicy Fruit, did you and the six ladies go home after the shoot or did you stay in the pool and make fruit salad?

Those ladies split.

They didn’t stay and hang with you?

You know… [starts singing lines from ‘Juicy Fruit’] ‘Watching girls come and go, juicy fruit, jump suit…’ It was cool, but you know, they went home.

Did Barry White, may he rest in peace, ever thank you for giving him a career?

No. No, he didn’t thank me. We did an album together, though, because they wanted to call us the ‘Deep Throat Brothers.’

Does anyone understand you ‘cept your woman?

Just my woman. My fourth wife, Adjowa. The kids are something else—that’s a different kind of understanding.

What kind of special treatment do you receive when you visit Ghana?

In Ghana, I’m an honorary king there. They have a big parade. They feed me all kinds of good stuff. They gave me my own island! It takes about an hour to circumnavigate it. Don’t know what I want to call it yet. I was last there about two years ago.

Have you ever dated a Jewish girl?

Yeah, I’ve dated all kinds of girls.

Of course you have. I’m a Jewish girl.

Oh yeah?

Do you think if I went black I’d ever go back?

There were no complaints from my Jewish girls. So from my perspective, you wouldn’t be goin’ back. No way.

BRIAN BRESS short interview

Video artist Brian Bress talks about the music video he made for Wounded Lion, LA Weekly

Wounded Lion- Pony People

Wounded Lion "Pony People" video, directed by Brain Bress
by Rena Kosnett
July 9, 2008 2:49 PM

The young L.A. band Wounded Lion has put up a new music video online for their song “Pony People,” ahead of the release of their first single on S-S Records. The video was directed by Brian Bress, who just finished a stint at the Getty as part of the “California Video” exhibition. Considering Bress and the Wounded Lion members Brad Eberhard and Raffi Kalenderian are all LA Weekly Biennial alums, and the video has the clear patterned, repetitive, and disorienting imprint of Bress’ other fine art work, the video skirts that gray area between music video and video art, like Target Video, also in the Getty exhibit, and Michael Reich’s Videothing (you can read more about Videothing here: Bress answered a few of my questions about the video today.

LA Weekly: You know Wounded Lion through college?

Brian Bress: I know Raffi through UCLA—he was in undergrad while I was in grad school there. I went to undergrad at RISD.

Ok Go commissioned you to make their “Television Television” wallpaper video. Did Wounded Lion commission you to make the “Pony People” video?

No, we had been discussing collaborating on a video for a while when I saw them around at parties and stuff. It wasn’t a commission, it was a pro bono thing. Ok Go had a budget—a small budget, but there was a budget. The “Pony People” video was made more like I make my other videos—very much on a shoe-string budget.

There’s some contemporary history with overlap in music videos and video art—Target Video in the Getty exhibit and Videothing’s work, among others. How does this video configure into that crossover?

If I had to, I would put it in a music video category. But it’s funny that you ask that, because one of the first things video art teachers will tell you is, “Don’t make music videos.” When I’m working, one of the first things I’ll do on set is make a music video, just to warm up. Not even to show to people—just to introduce music into the process. But I don’t often end up making music videos. I think I made a remake of the “Rock Your Body” video.

That process is tangible because your videos “Under Cover” and “Over and Over” have musical elements.

It’s true they do. What I consider a music video is a situation where the music couldn’t change—if the music is the lead and the video is there to serve the music. Music is important to me, but when defining the difference, it’s more about which is the focus. The imagery in “Pony People” is meant to go along with the song—the picture was the supporting cast member while the song was the primary element. Hopefully the imagery doesn’t overpower it.

But at the same time, the “Pony People” video was collaborative. I felt responsible to the band to make an image which reflected what I interpret the band to be about. I couldn’t just pause the song midway and put a segment of me dunking my head in water or something like that. An art video, just like any fine art, wouldn’t need a set purpose. The goal doesn’t need to be so clear.

Why did your teachers tell you not to make music videos?

I think their logic is that music is someone else's art, and it’s pretty powerful. You could take the same shot of a baby crying, and you could put it over heavy metal music, and then you could put it over classical music, and the meaning will change drastically. When starting out with video art, it’s tempting to use music to smooth over your images, to use like a handy cap, when you really should be focusing on the picture. I think my teachers were thinking we would do better to develop work without music for that reason.

Do you feel more comfortable making music videos now that you’ve exhibited your fine art?

I’ve always thought it was okay to make music videos. Even if it were the first video I’d ever made, before the Getty show, before all that, it would be okay. Obviously there’s overlap aesthetically about the way the videos are put together. If I was listing videos I’ve made that have the most personal resonance, I wouldn’t put the “Pony People” video in there, but some of the imagery is very personal. There are images of people who are close to me that aren’t in the band: the two dancing girls are close friends of mine. When I shot some of the earlier footage, when the set up was still in the forest, before we shot in the studio, I didn’t even know that content would be used for a Wounded Lion video. But as soon as I put the band in stripes I knew I had to use it.

Check out more of Brian Bress' videos here.


Filmmaker Michael Reich and Videothing feature, LA Weekly

Also: Target Video, TV Party, and video art vs. the music video

Converse and a camera: A still from an online arbiter. Photo by Rena Kosnett

TV party tonight: Michael Reich's Captures the Essence of L.A.'s Underground

Wednesday, June 4, 2008 - 3:15 pm

There’s something funny you notice when first visiting, the Web site for filmmaker Michael Reich’s local music project, Videothing: Nothing is for sale. Reich’s brief, sharply edited, somewhat scripted but mostly spontaneous films of music performances, band interviews, tour clips and general eccentricities, such as a Health and AIDS Wolf at the Smell, Matt Fishbeck playing his Omnichord over a toilet, and a rambling Jamai-can’t-accented speech about reggae from Ari Up, are laid out in two clean, colorful, user-friendly columns down the length of Videothing’s home page.

This is an inkling of what sets Videothing apart from the recently launched, or Vice’s year-old online channel, VBS TV. In all cases, the content is free, immediate and accessible; but Videothing’s sole objective is to get you to watch the content. Not to buy an album, a festival ticket or the latest T-shirt style from American Apparel.

This puts Videothing more in the realm of an anarcho-punk zine than that of MTV.’s block colors and dark background took cues from the covers of Soul Jazz Records’ New York Noise compilations of experimental no-wave punk music that originally came out on small DIY labels from 1978 to 1988. The same East Coast music and art scene birthed another of Reich’s major artistic inspirations: Glenn O’Brien’s quasi-political New York cable-access show TV Party, which had the tag line, “TV Party is the show that’s a cocktail party but which could also be a political party.” TV Party ran from 1978 to 1982 and made regular guests of Debbie Harry, Mick Jones and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The scratchy Xerox aesthetic of the VHS and cassette-tape faces on is Reich’s inspirational reference to this era of nonproprietary art making, a moment that was more about the sharing of ideas than the copyright of a song. Says Reich: “In that scene, people would make homemade VHS tapes to trade like video zines, but now we get that kind of accessibility on the Internet.”

Each film’s length is determined by Reich’s self-proclaimed attention-deficit disorder, which, he says, is also the reason for his sharp editing style. Most likely because of his background in 2-D art, the power of suggestion — which is commonly expounded upon by figure-drawing and painting teachers — plays largely into Reich’s editing. In the “Crystal Antlers Go to Texas” video, which was shot during the first day of Reich’s hitching a ride to SXSW with the Long Beach band, quick sequential loading-gear/getting-gas/ Mom-closing-the-van-door clips are followed by hand-scribbled titles shot over a few seconds of Dylan and the Band’s “This Wheel’s on Fire.” Besides the British Absolutely Fabulous characters Patsy and Edina, “This Wheel’s on Fire” has become an archetypal song for the struggling on-the-road musician, in part, because of its lyrics about packing, waiting and rolling down the road, but also because of Levon Helm’s autobiography of the same name — and it just happened to be on the mix Crystal Antlers vocalist Jonny Bell made for the trip.

These are the kinds of circumstantial subtleties that make Videothing special. Reich, who also achieved a small level of fame without showing his face as “Hero Robot No. 2” in Daft Punk’s Electroma, is keen to his surroundings and can capture interesting moments without having to dwell on them. A quick toss of room service trays onto a hotel room carpet in Austin, Texas, is all the viewer needs in order to understand Reich’s mood at the beginning of his “On a Bridge” SXSW video: underslept, aggressive and juvenile. Not surprisingly, that particular video is even more clipped than usual, includes a (mild) confrontation with the police, and ends after a few seconds of No Age’s playing, when a crowd surfer slams into the camera lens.

Getting kicked in the face while holding video equipment was also a favorite pastime of filmmaker Joe Rees. With his San Francisco–based operation, Target Video, Rees was the West Coast’s answer to TV Party, bringing punk groups into his studio or orchestrating bizarre shows, the most oft-talked-about being 1978’s The Cramps: Live at Napa State Mental Hospital, during which female patients swarm around Lux Interior as he croons, “Somebody told me you people are crazy, but I’m not so sure about that.”

This year, Target Video was officially snuggled into the bosom of a fine-art institution when it was included in the Getty’s “California Video” exhibition, a generous group show that traced the significant developments of video art in California, and included heavyweights Eleanor Antin, Mike Kelley, John Baldessari, Martin Kersels and eccentric tag team Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn. The valley that separates video art and promotional music videos is vast — the former started in the 1960s as a way for artists to use time as a canvas, while the latter, despite the creativity of directors like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, are promotional tools. But the resurfacing of music-video art has allowed for crossover between the two genres and can lead to strong differences of opinion. (Getty curator Glenn Phillips believes that Joe Rees’ Target Video has artistic merit, while L. A. Weekly art critic Doug Harvey does not: “... Conspicuous in its absence, especially considering the inclusion of such nonartsy material as the S.F. punk archives of Target Video ...”)

At its core, though, intent is what divides music video art from the music video, which Reich understands. As a paying gig, Reich directs full-production music videos (for, among others, the Shins, Bad Religion and the Brazilian Girls) for Draw Pictures, a commercial film agency with offices in London and Los Angeles. With client-based work, Reich is employed to help sell a product; with Videothing, he is trying to increase awareness of a culture and contextualize the live music within the realm of the club, or toilet, or bus. He’s making it not just for the band but for the people who were there, for the people who couldn’t make it and for his own enjoyment. “We’re all in this together,” he says. “That’s why I never get when bands give me a hard time about doing a five-minute interview. This one night, I waited until 3 or 4 a.m. to get an interview with Japanther. I ended up having to help them load up their gear, which I didn’t mind. But then this one guy in the band said, ‘If we’re gonna do this, you have to go get us some water.’ So I had to drop what I was doing to go find a liquor store and buy them bottled water. Later, though, they e-mailed me to say thank you.”

Because Reich makes these cool little films as his own project, Videothing’s recognizable cardboard signs and duct-tape labels were the handiest way to assemble a portable film set on the cheap. Also, it is just more realistic to carry around a backpack full of poster board signs and vinyl letters while roaming the streets of Austin and Los Angeles rather than a suitcase full of the props he originally used, like the large stuffed tigers he bought for the “Lady Tigre” video. “Basically, the signs came from Bob Dylan and not having enough money, and the desire to make 2-D art again,” Reich explains. The London alley in which D.A. Pennebaker shot a young Dylan dropping paper signs to the beat of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” does look like it could be along the entrance to the Smell, if beats Allen Ginsberg and Bob Neuwirth were replaced with Daniel, downtown L.A.’s most famous bum-security guard.

Target Video screens at MOCA on June 7, and Videothing can be seen in action, out and about, on most nights in Los Angeles, and on the Web site

AIDS Wolf in London by Videothing

The Cramps at Napa State Mental Hospital by Target Video

David Byrne on TV Party


Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Short write-ups as part of the 2008 F Yeah Fest feature, LA WEEKLY

F Yeah: Frickin' Yes in the Summertime
This weekend's fest offers a glimpse into the future of rock & roll

By L.A. Weekly Music Critics
Published on August 28, 2008

Crystal Antlers

2008 has been a stellar year for Long Beach's Crystal Antlers. They've released a new EP, gained scores of fans with their fantastic live shows, and signed to the respected Touch and Go Records, where they join the prestigious ranks of Black Heart Procession, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio. The California-cool guitar stylings of Andrew King, shirtless knock-around drumsticks of Kevin Stuart, psychedelic octaves of organist Victor Rodriguez, passion percussion employed by Sexual Chocolate, and Jonny Bell's full-fisted bass and voice have merged to form an L.A. County classic. (Rena Kosnett)

Graham Forest

Rumor has it that Graham Forest sits cross-legged on the ground while entertaining Native American children, strumming his guitar and spinning tall tales. It's also suggested that Graham Forest lives in a trailer in the forests of, um, Fresno, and his quarters are overrun with marionette parts, leatherworking tools and ancient mortar holes. Graham Forest, it is said, hones his powers from the Indian burial ground and nonworking satellite dish that his backyard comprises. Whether all this is true or not, the mostly unknown yet easily embraced Central Valley Neil Diamond known as Graham Forest possesses a wholesome goodness that is greatly appreciated amid much of the F Yeah Fest's chaos. (RK)

Really lovely and cute video of Graham Forest in Fresno, by Videothing


Record Review, LA WEEKLY

Record Reviews: Inara George and Van Dyke Parks, Darker My Love

Also, Hawthorne Heights, the Starlite Desperation

By L.A. Weekly Music Critics
Published on August 28, 2008

The Starlite Desperation |Take It Personally| Infrasonic
Los Angeles trio the Starlite Desperation have accumulated a laundry list of career variations, including: label changes — GSL, Flapping Jet, Cold Sweat, Capitol; locale changes — San Francisco, Detroit, Los Angeles; band-name transformations — Starlite Desperation, Lost Kids, Spirit Army; and a lead singer whose own moniker changes just as frequently — Dante White, Dante Aliano, Dante Adrian, Dante Adrian White. But their music is consistently recognizable, mainly due to Adrian's delicate and sophisticated vocals, which contrast and cut through Jeff Ehrenberg's garage-punk drumming. The high timbre and loose, experimental feel of Take It Personally, their fourth, is most reminiscent of Starlite's first album, 2001's Show You What a Baby Won't. Both have an on-edge intensity and reach their greatest potential with the simpler pop tracks. New songs "Spirit Army," "My Favorite Place" and "I Love This!" accomplish much while remaining deceptively simple, invoking feelings of "Sweet Cherry Wine"–era Tommy James in Starlite's capacity to deliver catchy, dynamic songs by working and reworking accessible pop formulas — and then throwing in a little unexpected texture to shake those formulas up. Take It Personallyis a showcase for what Starlite Desperation do best — writing great garage/pop tunes that stick in your head for days and days and days. —Rena Kosnett


The art collective I work with, From Here To There, put up a public installation in an empty private lot on the corner of Micheltorena and Sunset, on Friday, September 12th.

By Sunday, it had been taken down.

But here is a blog that commemorates the process and the show.

It was a beautiful installation, and may it rest in peace.

3434 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

From Here to There presents 3434 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, a guerrilla art show in the empty lot at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Micheltorena in Silver Lake. The installation consists of 10 mounted images placed in the lot and visible from the street. Our intention is to utilize a space that is currently unused and in transition to display art. The images included present our interpretations of what it means to occupy land while making a public space personal.

thoughts: Hugging & Empathy

Hugs are good. And chimps feel empathy.

BBC News

Monday, September 8, 2008

thoughts: The Olympics

Opening ceremonies in Beijing: beautiful, yes. But...

What kind of society is it, that can afford to make patterns out of people?

-Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

Good question, Mr. Lane.

1936, Berlin Olympics

Olympic swimming pool after the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
IOC Olympic Museum/Allsport/Getty Images

Sunday, August 10, 2008


New documentary about punk and rock music in China's capital screening in Don't Knock the Rock music/film festival, LA Weekly

Beijing Bubbles film still- Joyside

Beijing Bubbles screening at Cinefamily 7.24.08
by Rena Kosnett
July 25, 2008 9:09 AM

Beijing Bubbles, a new documentary about punk and rock music in Beijing, screened Thursday night at Cinefamily as part of the Don’t Knock The Rock movie line-up. The filmmakers, based in Berlin, both have long-standing connections to the music industry in Germany; George Lindt and Susanne Messmer have been involved in independent record production and music journalism for many years, so it was with a clear passion that they went to Beijing to find “punk rock visions at the other side of the world.” The film follows five bands, which were each introduced with taglines that read as entries in the punk-rock encyclopedia. Joyside, the popular indie punk band: “There is no use to be a hard-working man.” Hang On The Box, the experimental girl band: “We need a quiet mood to think about music.” New Pants, the shaggy-haired skinny boys: “We are still underground.” T9, the hermit throat-singer: “I have isolated myself since a long time.” Sha Zi, the bluesy duo: “We don’t want to be a part of that society.”

In the online synopsis, it says the musicians, although stylistically diverse, have all “retired from the world in which they have grown up.” And that’s exactly it. There are no options for these people: they have retired, at the ripe-old-age of twenty-something. Aside from one band member in New Pants who owns his own toy store, the cameras followed around these musicians doing absolutely NOTHING—they stroll, they browse, they sit, they talk. Some of them have had stints in the accepted “subculture” commodity position of record store and used clothing store clerk; the film makes it clear that, by choosing to pursue a life devoted to Western music, their only choice is to stay at home all day.

But Beijing Bubbles didn’t go in to WHY that is their fate. Why do these girls and boys have no income, no creative jobs, no art collectives, no home made music fanzines? The answer points plainly towards their government, their societal constraints, their country’s fear of independent thought. But you have to come to those conclusions yourself. Perhaps the filmmakers were too timid to ask "Why?" Or maybe they did, but the youngsters were too scared (or drunk) to answer.

With scarcely any cultural context (the absence of which makes the Bubbles in the title seem exceedingly appropriate), the lives of the musicians played out as banal, broke, stay-home-all-day subjects; and while that seems to be the point of their lives--this deviation from an acceptable routine--the monotony didn't have to be the point of the movie. Amidst the looming Beijing Olympics, and the recent violence against Tibetans and their supporters, including journalists, I would have loved to see the filmmakers connect to the root of their subjects’ disenfranchisement. What we got instead was a litany of clichéd catch-phrases: “We are living in a subculture,” “Depression helps me make music,” “All I want to do is sing, drink, and fuck,” etc., etc., etc. Joyside’s new album was even titled Drunk Is Beautiful.

The “Humai” throat-singing feats of T9’s singer Yiliqi, who is the son of a Mongol and a Manchurian, were a delightful inclusion that worked like a shot of espresso, although he doesn’t appear on-screen until the last fifteen minutes. The closest the film came to addressing the larger imprint of the Chinese culture was with two comments made by Sha Zi singer Liu Donghong. In the first, Liu was talking about the proliferation of prostitution in bars during a stroll with his girlfriend, and he asks the crucial question, “Where have all the girls gone?” An interesting societal dilemma with an interesting answer. No time here, but anyone familiar with the One Child law can start to imagine the fate of many baby girls born in China. And the second was during a stroll in Tiananmen Square. Liu looks up at the ominous Great Hall of the People legislative building along the western perimeter, and says simply, “They have many meetings here. They come here, and they make decisions. And then they come out with bad ideas.”

For more info visit

Saturday, August 9, 2008

KING KHAN! interview

King Khan & The Shrines, LA Record (online full interview)

The most fun I've ever had interviewing anyone. I might post the tape of the interview online, because his laugh is so entertaining. Guttural. He talks about Sun Ra's joyful noise at the end, and a smell contest that will supposedly take place at The Echo tonight. And Arthur Lee crying over his steak, etc... He also makes me a special promise after the last question.

King Khan & the Shrines (feat. Sun Ra Arkestra's Dave Davies

This is the erotic splatter film he starred in when he was 22 and he first moved to Germany, and his music video with BBQ for "Why Don't You Lie?" Interview below.

Hombre Fatal

Why Don't You Lie?

Before touring with his electric-magnetic-frenetic 10-piece soul revue orchestra for the new Vice release, The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines, the soul man cosmonaut brother-from-an-Indian-mother of the King Khan & BBQ Show talks with Rena Kosnett about painting babies, knife fights, Arthur Lee crying over his steak, and funkifying Larry Hardy’s house, all while cooking paella. And the good king poppa patriarch throws some dental hygiene advice in at the close for kicks.

Rena K: You do paintings of rock icons as babies. The Little Richard one is very cute.

King Khan: Thank you very much. ‘Baby: of Richard.’ When I first came to Germany I saw those paintings—actually it was in France when I saw the first one—I guess in the ‘60s there was an artist who made a lot of those baby-faced paintings. Often you find them hanging in kid’s rooms and stuff. I used to find them in the flea markets, so I had this idea—why not make baby musicians that I loved? And then what was really cool was when Saba Lou, my youngest daughter, before she was even talking she would play with them like they were dolls, and she would walk around with them—

There’re sharp corners on those things, no?

No, no. I mean, it’s wood, but it’s not super sharp. Anyways, she would play around with them and then when she got older she totally knew who they were and which songs matched which paintings. It was a great way for her to learn. I actually got an offer to do a children’s book with them. I want to do like a CD with one song from every musician.

What are dream dogs? They show up in your paintings often.

Dream dogs are the dogs in my dreams. I basically wanted to paint them and make them known to everyone.

You dream about little fluffy poodles?

Yeah. On tour it would happen often that I would wake up and I just had these dogs in my head, so I put them down. I have a bunch that I didn’t finish. There’s a dog made of spaghetti, and a dog made of circles. I have to keep doing it. It’s hard to find time when you’re touring. I dream about all sorts of different animals. Actually, I had a very disturbing dream just 2 days ago, after I saw There Will Be Blood. When I went to sleep I dreamt that I was going home and I lived in an oil well. It was a bit disturbing, ‘cause that movie’s pretty dark.

Did you intentionally set out to become the first Indian-French-Canadian to front a soul revue orchestra?

Yes. Actually, I killed the rest of them. We were all Siamese twins at one point, and I managed to keep the brains for myself. No, I mean, coming from Montreal, it’s such an international place, so I never really thought of myself in that way. But I guess that is true. I’m a French. Canadian. Indian.

Well, yes. Among other things.

I’m really excited to bring the whole orchestra here. The freak show. It’s crazy because I feel like rock n’ roll has renewed itself again, with the new wave of musicians. I’m really proud to be living right now, in this time. The quality of music that’s coming out from my peers and my buddies, I’m very proud of it. I think that growing up today is not as dismal and shitty as I thought it was gonna be.

Speaking of dismal and shitty, you know how we hear stories about Arthur Lee yelling at members of Love and how James Brown was tyrannical over the people in his band—

I met Arthur Lee! I had dinner like right in front of him. I mean, we hung out. That was really crazy. I was playing a blues festival in Norway and Love was playing also. So I asked the organizer if it was possible for me to meet Arthur Lee, but he said ‘Oh, he’s kind of strange about meeting anyone.’ He said Arthur Lee usually plays the show and then goes directly to the hotel—he doesn’t socialize at all. So I said, ‘If you could give him a CD that would be great,’ and he said no problem, and that he would pass the CD on. So then at dinnertime I went to the hotel to eat, and I got a plate of food and went in to the dining room and Arthur Lee was right there! And I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ So I sat at the table next door to his table and one of the guys from his band was like ‘Hey, King Khan, what are you doin’ here?’ So I felt more like one of them. Then they asked me, ‘Where you from?’ and asked me about my life. I told them I left home when I was 17, so then Arthur Lee was like [lowering and gruffing up voice considerably to do the Arthur Lee parts], ‘I left home when I was 17 too. My daddy bought me a car, and I drooove away.’ So I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool, my dad was a bit of a jerk.’ I told him my dad was addicted to cocaine, that he had a problem when he was young. And then Arthur Lee was like, ‘Really? Where’s your dad right now? I could use some of that stuff right now.’ I didn’t really laugh out loud at that, so he got kinda nervous, so I was like, ‘Oh yeah, haha.’ So then he said ‘Why don’t you come eat dinner over here?’ So I sat next to him and I was eating steak with him. We ate steak together. And then it was really kinda sad, because he asked me what I do, so I told him about the projects with my kids, and he was like ‘Ya know, I don’t have a momma. I don’t have a poppa. I don’t have any kids. I don’t even have a wife. I dance alone.’

Oh, Jesus.

And then, I swear to God, it looked like he had a tear come out of his eye. I was really shocked. In my head, I was like ‘Oh my God.’ We were sitting there eating, and he was almost crying. I was pretty shocked.

I’ve heard he was a tyrannical, crazy man to the members of his band.

Yeah, but he went through a really rough life, I think. Obviously, that kind of tyranny comes out of how happy you are at home. I’m, well—I love cooking for my band, I love being a poppa.

So we’re not going to hear any horror stories about you yelling at the Shrines?

No, not at all. The thing with the Shrines is—it’s really like a dysfunctional family. Everyone has their annoying little behavioral things or smelly body parts.

What’s the smelliest body part?

[laughing] what’s the smelliest body part?

The smelliest body part on the smelliest person.

Actually, if anyone can find out, I’ll give them a free record.

At your show in L.A.?

Yeah, if anyone is brave enough to test the waters.

You know, people are going to take you up on that.

Yeah, I know. [laughing laughing] So? I’ll just line up the Shrines and we can blindfold people and have their noses lead them.

Is the video for ‘Why Don’t You Lie’ based in reality? About BBQ going with you to Berlin and getting jealous and insecure?

The video is actually supposed to be a fake gay romantic art movie.

Really? I didn’t get gay—I just got like, really good friends.

It was supposed to be two gay lovers!

You should’ve kissed.

We made the mistake of doing that like twice in public, and it was really, uh, strange. Especially the second time because we thought it would be really shocking but then we realized that no one was even looking! That video was actually made by the director of the movie I did the soundtrack for—Oliver Rihs—called Schwarze Schafe. The video was the director’s idea. He thought that was really hilarious, to do that.

Does BBQ get jealous when you tour without him?

No, no.

He’s never said, “If I can’t have you no one can!”

[laughing] No, we share. It’s better that way.

What was the one deciding factor that made you want to stay in Berlin in the middle of your Spaceshits tour?

The Spaceshits had been together for five years at that point, and I think all of us were really itching to try something else, do something different. And out of the Spaceshits came a number of bands that were great. My sister started playing with the guitar player, and they got married and had babies. And Les Sexareenos came out of that too, so there were all these offshoots and I think it was a wise decision. I personally wanted to live in Europe because after the tour I was so happy being there, and amazed at how people are treated in general there, especially musicians. All the freaks of rock n’ roll music seem to survive in Europe. It’s been like that for a long time. People who are forgotten and disappear in America are really celebrated in Europe somehow. They might be small circles of people, but in every city you’ll find a couple hundred people who really have a passion for finding rare, odd, crazy rock n’ roll.

Do you ever see Jessie Evans and Toby Dammit around Berlin?

I didn’t know they lived in Berlin. I have a home studio in my house, Moon Studios, and I record there. I rarely go out. Just when friends come out to play shows, or something like that. I’m actually going to be putting out a compilation of the Moon material on In The Red. It’s recordings from the past eight years. I want to have volume one come out hopefully at the end of this year. It’s got Deerhunter on it, and Black Lips, and Saba Lou, and Demon’s Claws. Some solo stuff too. It’s like the family exposing itself. What I like to do mostly when people visit is just record songs. I do that with my family, my brother and sister too. I’ve been recording with them for ten years. I’ve been waiting to put it all together. But this year went really well. Deerhunter came out, and Demon’s Claws, and it all sounded so good. I can’t wait. I think it’s going to be great. And it’s on In The Red Records—L.A.’s finest.

I really like the duet you do with Saba Lou on ‘Passed and Gone.’ It’s very sweet.

Thanks, I just recorded that a couple weeks ago. I was working on that song for the Shrines, and Saba Lou was just sitting and watching, and quietly came up to me and was like [in a little girl voice] ‘I want to sing the song, too.’ It’s amazing because now that she can read, it makes things a lot easier. She’s turning eight on the 19th of July! And Bella is five.

You had kids at a fairly young age.

Yeah, I was twenty-two. I had a baby, me and my wife got married, and we moved into our new apartment, all in the same week. I have it all on the same roll of film. Our wedding, our moving in, and our baby’s birth. It was pretty crazy.

Did your decision to stay in Berlin have anything to do with their general acceptance of sexual deviancy?

Yes, definitely. It’s common for girls here to woo men with hashish and lure them into their dungeons and do wonderful things to them. I think in general Europeans don’t make their kids feel ashamed about sexuality. Growing up, kids are introduced to it in a really nice way, rather than in a way that makes it seem evil and horrible. I can tell just in the way my wife was raised. It’s a completely natural way of discovering things.

Are Berlin sex shops different than Montreal sex shops?

There’s probably a lot more leather in Berlin. Actually, Montreal is kind of kinky in that way too. But I don’t really go into sex shops. I like to be creative on my own.

Oh, yeah. I, umm, don’t go in to sex shops either.

[laughing] Unless it’s someone’s birthday!

The Black Lips list you as a member of the band in the Good Bad Not Evil notes, but it says that you caused major ruckus and distractions for them. What did you do?

Well, I’ve known them for a long time and sometimes I write songs for them. It’s like family antics. Like when a drunk uncle does funny things at your birthday party.

Did anybody end up crying?

[laughing] No, I guess not a drunk uncle—maybe when your cousin pukes on something. It’s like blood family. I go kinda crazy when I see them. I get excited, and like a kid—we all do. I jump on stage sometimes. That’s how I am with music that I love. I wish more people were like that too. There’s been some funny instances. One really funny one was when they played in L.A. recently. Larry Hardy was out of town and he let me stay at his house for a week, and the Black Lips and the Spits were playing in L.A. that week. So he knew that I was gonna have them over, I told him I was going to have them over. But we made a mess. I mean, I didn’t make the mess.

No, of course not.

Cole let a fart bomb off in his house and we had to open all the windows. So they equally make a ruckus when they’re around me too. I’m not always the troublemaker.

So they can’t blame you.

It’s fun to say, but they’re pretty trouble-making themselves.

I want to talk about Hombre Fatal.

Oh, God. That film was made by a really hardcore ex-skinhead punk girl. She’s the girl that’s in the movie with the tattoos all over.

It’s really hot.

It was pretty much her idea. I think maybe she had a thing for me or something, and I guess it manifested itself in the movie. She’s pretty hardcore. Her name is Iris Cuntze. And she was a really hardcore nasty skinhead. And she was notorious for beating people up and stuff. But then she went through this reform and I happened to be there for that.

You were totally cold to that Asian chick who shot Iris for licking your chest.

I know, I know. It’s because my wife was pregnant while that was being filmed. I was going through some shit.

The only part I was able to see was when you were dancing in your little bikini and then the Asian chick shoots Iris.

It’s a short film!

That’s the whole thing?

Well, there are the credits at the end where I’m signing autographs outside my dressing room. That’s kinda funny.

Have you ever met King Khan the Bollywood star?

No! But I really want to play a villain against him. I have this dream of doing this Bollywood film where it would just be villains, where every character gets introduced separately. Like a Sergio Leone movie. Or like El Topo with Indians. I’d want evil people, one after another. But I don’t know about that actor, actually. I’d like to meet him, I guess, but I heard recently that he did commercials for this cream called ‘Fair and Lovely,’ which is a skin cream in India for dark people to become light skinned.

Fuck, that's awful.

Yeah, so I was very upset when I heard that. That’s really horrible to put anything like that on the market. It’s sad. You see that a lot in India—it can be a pretty racist place. There’s still a lot of racism against dark people.

Do you think he’d have a problem with you using his nickname, now that you’ve publicly spurned his product endorsement?

I didn’t know about him when I came up with the name. I began using that name ten years ago because it’s very anonymous. Khan is my real last name, but the name ‘King Khan’ is common—like, if an Indian person moves to, you know, Idaho, and opens up a chicken place, he’ll name it ‘King Khan Chicken.’ Also, when I first moved to Germany I got a German WWI helmet as a present—well, it was made of plastic, it wasn’t a real one—and I would wear it everywhere. I would go grocery shopping with that thing on, and it would freak German people out—an Indian guy wearing a Kaiser helmet. The first time I went to Hamburg I was walking down the street drinking a beer with my girlfriend, and all these street bums were coming up to me and screaming ‘Kaiser!’ And ‘kaiser’ is like ‘king,’ so I thought, ‘Man, I’m a king in Germany!’ So that’s where the name came from.

Did you respond to the bums that were yelling at you?

Yeah, I was drinking a beer and giving them a salute—

Wait, wait, what kind of salute?

What? Oh… no, like a cheer! We don’t have those kind of bums anymore.

If George Clinton and James Brown were in a knife fight, who would win?

Definitely James Brown. James Brown was a boxer, a fighter. I think George Clinton would be trying to distract him by doing some kind of funky dance, and then James Brown would just cold-cock him. And I mean a punch.

How about Long Gone John versus Larry Hardy in a knife fight?

I don’t know if I can answer that. Well, I would say Long Gone. But maybe Larry has some kind of mysterious Tai Chi training or something.

Larry does have youth on his side.

Yeah, but Long Gone’s kind of Larry’s poppa in a way.

So it would be like a Star Wars kind of situation.

Long Gone John is Darth Vader and Larry Hardy is Luke Skywalker.

You’ve worked with Goner Records in the past, and Sympathy For The Record Industry, and In The Red Records. So why Vice now? Why not find a comparably independent record label based in Berlin, or somewhere else close to your home?

I just wanted to get the music out to the masses. It’s great to work with underground labels, and I’ll continue doing that. But Vice has a whole strategy to get it out there and push their shit onto normal people, not just music fans. And I think that it’s time this music gets out of the whole underground thing, and gets to younger kids. It’s done that a bit naturally, already. You’ve got Thrasher magazine writing about us and Jay Reatard and stuff. But I guess with Vice, I’m down with them really pushing it all over the place.

Was it Vice’s idea to release a compilation record or was that you wanted?

That was what I wanted, to test the waters. Also that Shrines material was pretty much an exclusively European thing. I didn’t really tour all over America with the Shrines like I did with King Khan & BBQ.

It wasn’t due to a lack of new material to run with?

No, I thought it would be good for the older stuff to get more exposure. We have a new album—we’re working on it now. But I think that the songs on Supreme Genius still hold up. For example, songs like ‘Torture.’ It’s ten years old. And it’s about time people took notice of those songs. I think a lot of people, especially in the States, didn’t get a chance to hear them. Another thing about Vice, we’ve got this great booking agency working with us, and it’s little things like that—I mean, King Khan & BBQ do really well in America, and I think it’s because of that, that I finally got to bring the whole band—Oh shit, I forgot the rice!

[Sounds of pans crashing. Pause.]

Are you burning your dinner?

I’m checking—I don’t think it’s burned. Okay, it’s good. So the success of King Khan & BBQ enabled me to bring the Shrines over.

Considering that you’re barely out of your twenties, do you think declaring your ‘Supreme Genius’ at this point in time is selling the rest of your seventy or so years a bit short?

That title’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek joke. My dad had a big collection of Indian classical music, and it’s common for sitar players to have the phrase ‘supreme genius’ in the titles of their records. It’s similar to the phrase ‘Popular Favorites’ in the U.S.—like those records that say [making his voice like a 50s radio DJ] ‘Rock n’ roll: Popular Favorites’ from the ‘50s and ‘60s. So that’s where the ‘Supreme Genius’ came from. It didn’t come from an ego problem. Which I don’t have.

It reminds of Korla Pandit—his records.

Did Korla Pandit have a ‘supreme genius’ album too? He looks crazy.

He’s not really Indian! He was a light-skinned black guy.

Yeah, he was from L.A. right? I’m really Indian, though.

I believe you. I want to know about your fashion choices. I really like your bone wear and your grass skirts—and the sparkly gold onesy you were wearing while you were giving your friend a hair cut in New Orleans to make him look like Ghandi.

My wife designs all that stuff for me. We should sell that stuff. It would be great to start a fashion line of my dresses.

Do you pick out outfits for the Shrines like James Brown used to do for his band?

My wife picks out and makes all the costumes, and I help here and there. I’ll wear them and she’ll stick pins in me. It can be quite scary and erotic.

Do you already know what you’re going to wear at your show in L.A.?

I’ve had the same suit that I’ve worn for the Shrines, the white one, for years now. I’ve taken that suit on tour for two months and it doesn’t smell bad. I could wear it every night. But I have to dry it. I’m not really one to bring too much luggage when I go places. That’s actually why I prefer to wear hula dresses with King Khan and BBQ—they’re a lot easier to pack.

So in the smell challenge, you’re not going to be the smelliest one?

No, no no no. Ah, well, maybe. It depends on what time of day it is.

Do you smell worse at night?

I have this musk that comes out, like a beaver. Or a raccoon.

Is it in response to external stimulus? Like a skunk?

I always keep a little pouch of beaver musk wherever I go. Most Canadians do.

Can you explain why you like Sun Ra to me? I ask because he’s someone I’ve always admired, but I have trouble getting to the root of it, since I don’t go for all the extraterrestrial cosmic awareness stuff.

What I always loved about Sun Ra was the way he created his own myth. And then that myth became reality. When I think of Sun Ra, I think, ‘Well, now he’s back in space.’ I really believe that. What he did was musical alchemy in a way. He brought people together in Philadelphia who probably would’ve never played instruments, and told them what they should play, like a pharaoh. He would look at someone and say ‘You should play drums!’ And we don’t know if they would’ve found that without him. He was a catalyst for a lot of people.

He had that one quote: ‘We’re all instruments, and everyone is supposed to be playing their part.’

It was kind of like being a magician, his ability to influence people. Like Anton LaVey—a much kinder, gentler Anton LaVey. LaVey was kind of scary—not scary, evil. What’s beautiful and unique, what I love about Sun Ra was that he preached for people to listen to the music inside themselves, and not the programmed music that was shouted at them to numb their brains. And that whole idea is still applicable now. I especially love the Sun Ra doo-wop stuff that he did—the space doo-wop stuff. I think that music is so psychedelic and wonderful and pure. It’s unbelievable. Like Henry Darger’s paintings.

But, again—kind of scary. Those paintings can be really scary. But some of Sun Ra’s later electronic keyboard compositions are really frightening.

People like that, Henry Darger and Sun Ra, they don’t create for the masses—they create for themselves and their own healing process or whatever it is. They don’t even necessarily want it to be shown to everyone. It’s just beautiful and uninfluenced by stupidity. The first time I really had a religious experience with music was when I was 22 and first moved to Germany. I met this painter and sax player, who was actually going back to America—he gave me a stack of video tapes of Sun Ra. And I flipped out. I had known a little bit about Sun Ra, but I didn’t know the whole philosophy behind it. And after that I found my way. I wanted to do that same kind of joyful noise.

Last question. Do you think your wife would mind if you and I reenacted Hombre Fatal with me playing the part of the tattooed lady that licks your chest?

I think because we had this interview and everything, it’s part of the job, and it would be disappointing if it didn’t happen—so no, she wouldn’t mind. Please brush your teeth before we do that. And don’t forget to floss.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

F YEAH FEST/TOUR interview & feature

F Yeah Fest/Tour interviews with Sean Carlson and Phil Hoelting, LA Weekly

F Yeah Tour Bus by Tod Seelie/Sucka Pants
Photos by Tod Seelie/Sucka Pants

Go, Greased Lightning! F Yeah Fest Tours U.S. on Veg-Fueled Bus
Is this the future of touring?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 - 4:30 pm

Los Angeles’ independent-music festival the F Yeah Fest just concluded a four-week continental loop around the Eastern, Southern and Midwestern U.S. in a vegetable-oil- and diesel-powered Blue Bird school bus. At various intervals, the inhabitants of this French-fried freight included Monotonix, Team Robespierre, Totally Michael, Josh Fadem, Matt & Kim, the Death Set, Crystal Antlers, Dan Deacon, Microcosm Publishing, Space 1026 art collective, Videothing, Sucka Pants photography and various tour managers, heartbreakers and foreign legionnaires (just kidding, but Monotonix are from Tel Aviv, so they’ve most likely had stints in the IDF).

The F Yeah Tour ended last week, with a show in Brooklyn headlined by the Circle Jerks (singer Keith Morris is one of the festival’s organizers). But Sean Carlson, the festival’s other organizer, and Phil Hoelting, one of the tour managers, have plans to continue this ecological and monetarily friendly way of touring the West Coast and abroad this fall. L.A. Weekly spoke with Carlson and Hoelting via telephone this week.

L.A. WEEKLY: What has surprised you most about touring by bus?

Phil Hoelting: How amazing it is to be able to find vegetable oil, the accessibility of it. Everyone that’s been touring now have their eyes trained to search for veggie oil. We get our hands dirty and dive into these oil troughs behind restaurants. When you find a grease trough filled with hundreds of gallons of oil, it’s like a gold rush. You’d never think these emotions exist. Finding good, clean grease and not being able to take it all in the tanks was the worst feeling. I’ll never forget Amarillo, Texas, for that reason.

Sean Carlson: Each bathroom break takes 45 minutes. The daily drama of getting everyone back to the bus. Everyone scatters at night to be with their friends, so if we have a noon leave time, we have to wake up at 9 a.m. If someone wants to sleep in at their friend’s house and not pick up their phone in the morning, we all end up standing outside the bus and waiting.

Does the bus have a name?
PH: Greased Lightning. The original name was Too Fast For Love. Ami, the singer for Monotonix, came up with that name. But then I was looking on the weather map on my phone and there were lightning storms everywhere, so we came up with the current name.

What’s been the most successful part of your journey?
SC: That the first show happened. That we got out of California. That the bus works. That we haven’t crashed. I don’t want to jinx it, but we’ve made it happen. Putting together a tour isn’t an easy thing. Phil and the crew help me a lot running the day-to-day. But there are a million other things, logistics, that go with it, which I’ve had to fly back and forth from the tour to L.A. to deal with — stuff for the F Yeah Fest.

Also, it’s amazing that we haven’t been pulled over yet, and that the bus hasn’t been broken into. In Atlanta, we had to park in front of a housing project, and it was my turn to sleep in the bus — every night, someone takes the responsibility of sleeping in the bus. But I couldn’t sleep because all night I kept hearing people muttering outside, “What’s in there?” I was holding a baseball bat and lying in the seat, and thinking to myself, “I’m gonna hit someone when they try to come in. I’m gonna hit someone and then they’re going to kill me.” Thankfully, none of that happened.

PH: Not counting oil scores? Well, we broke down three times, and each time, we un-broke down, which was a major success. We were leaving Alabama, after playing this amazing venue, the Bottle Tree, and Donovan [Lenker, one of the tour crew] was making a U-turn into a driveway, and our U-Haul trailer jackknifed and we got stuck. Eventually, we got AAA to come out, but by that time we had tried for so long to get unstuck that the wheels stopped turning. That was the first time the tour “was over.” I literally laid down on the ground and threw my keys, which I consequently lost, and fell asleep. But this local guy shows up, and he’s, like, “Hey, man, what’s the problem here? Let me have a look.” He brought a calm energy to the situation. Turns out we’d killed all the air pressure in the bus by trying to move, so we just had to let it rest.

Another time, about 30 miles outside of Pensacola, we ran out of diesel in a town that, we soon found out, had no diesel fuel. We called AAA, but they told us our best bet was to call 911. They said, “We don’t deliver diesel fuel, and we don’t tow buses.” That was the second time the tour “was over.” But I approached this really nice old man in this very small Christian town we were stuck in, and he made a phone call to another gas station 30 miles outside of town, and they actually brought us diesel fuel.

Anyone who gets on this bus realizes that it’s a lot of work. It’s free fuel, but it’s a hard time. When you go prowling for veggie oil, you just have to act like you know what you’re doing, so you don’t attract attention. We’re all definitely prepared to have “the talk” with police if they ever stop us — there are some issues because we’re not paying gas taxes when we run on vegetable oil. But, hopefully, the police will just be cool about it and let us go.

Describe the scariest experience involving bus nudity.
SC: Man, I’m sober 14 days on the tour, and then one time I get photographed naked and that photo gets on the Sucka Pants Web site and everyone thinks I’m naked all the time.

I didn’t ask about you personally, I just asked about general bus nudity.
SC: Sometimes we get naked on the bus. We got naked in Birmingham after a couple bottles of whiskey. I have a girlfriend, so I don’t really care. The sexual frustration is through the roof on the bus, though. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a boy or a girl anymore. We end up spending a lot of time spooning and holding one another.

PH: Sean’s the only one who gets to answer that.

Do any of the people at the shows already know what the F Yeah Fest is?
SC: Yeah, absolutely. Every city has a lot of press, and it’s going over really well. They know what I do and what Keith does, so it’s nice. Right now, F Yeah Fest is just a show to them, but, hopefully, in a couple years it’ll grow into something that they recognize. Next, we’re planning to go to Japan and Australia with the band Fucked Up in December. We’re also starting the West Coast tour.

Ken Kesey’s bus trip with his Merry Pranksters in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is now symbolic of the psychedelic movement and the beginnings of New Journalism. What will the F Yeah Fest and Greased Lightning come to represent?

Finding a way to give smaller bands opportunities to tour during these unstable [times of] insane gas prices. We can tour the country for very little money by running on vegetable oil. The venues can’t even give bands guarantees to cover gas money right now. With Sean, I want to package tours for bands that maybe couldn’t do it otherwise.

SC: Being young. Being dumb. Having fun. Enjoying your youth for as long as possible. No one helped me when I was 18 and started F Yeah Fest. Everyone thought this tour would be a bust. But we’ve done it.

F Yeah Tour by Todd Seelie/Sucka Pants

F Yeah Tour oil score by Tod Seelie/Sucka Pants

For more photos and other fun stuff, visit Sucka Pants

Thursday, July 24, 2008

video of the week: We Belong

This gets the award for: Most Unexpected Use of Pat Benatar.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Live review, LA Weekly

King Khan & The Shrines
All photos by Ignacio Genzon.

King Khan & The Shrines at The Echo 7.10.08
by Rena Kosnett
July 11, 2008 7:15 AM

Touring on the heels of their first kiss with Vice Records, the brother-from-an-Indian-mother King Khan led his keyboard, guitar, bass, brass, rhythm, and booty section through a dozen or so tracks off of their new compilation album, The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines, as well as a Spits cover and a rendition of Bowie's "Rebel Rebel," in the uncomfortably crowded Echo last night. King Khan, a French-Canadian of Indian decent currently residing in Berlin with his growing family of rug rats, usually tours the U.S. with his Canadian counterpart and former Spaceshits band mate BBQ (alias Mark Sultan) as The King Khan and BBQ Show, which has deservedly garnered him a large fan base in North America. King Khan and the Shrines, though, have been playing mainly Europe, until the recent backing of Vice enabled Khan to ship his world-spread band on an American tour; so most of the material on the new record has been released before, but not heard live by KK & BBQ-loving rock n' rollers on this side of the globe. King Khan & The Shrines put up a gonzo-soul act in the tradition of James Brown, Otis Redding, and the Sun Ra Arkestra, and take it to a level that is either extreme emulation or poignant satire, depending on the tune.

My favorite track on Supreme Genius, "Took My Lady To Dinner"--which clearly falls into the latter category, was left off the play list, unfortunately. The lyrics make me crack up every time I hear them ("My baby's sooo fat and ugly"). But the Shrines made high energy feats of “Tell Me,” and “Land of the Freak,” which, with their heavy saxophone and trumpet funkadelics, are two of the most heavily Stax-referential songs on the record. “Welfare Bread,” previously released on the 2007 Hazelwood Records full-length What Is?!, is so smooth and mellow, harkening Joe Tex/Marvin Gaye-style cool, it makes me wonder if people are actually listening to the lyrics, which, again, make me crack up in a way some people actually living on welfare may think is inappropriate: “You don’t have to pay your bills anymore/You can just eat my welfare bread.” Dressed in a cape and sparkly mask (think Blowfly), Khan’s crowning achievement was his signature Shrines call-and-response break about re-entering his lover’s vagina in an attempt to be reborn. Although the motivation of his gospel doesn’t change, Khan’s description modified from previous recordings of the whole-body rebirth sermon: after he finally got his other leg in, the line of the night was “And let me tell ya’, it was all beach. No sand, allll beach.”

King Khan & The Shrines

King Khan & The Shrines

King Khan & The Shrines

King Khan & The Shrines