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THOMAS MIDDLEDITCH extremely

vincible


FRENSHIP


ORIGINAL TRACKS is a monthly series, brought to you by ORIGINAL PENGUIN and FLOOD Magazine, featuring performances and interviews from some of today's most unique and talented artists. Check regularly at ORIGINALPENGUIN.COM for the latest episodes!

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12 A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 16 BREAKING: BENJAMIN BOOKER, CHASTITY BELT, DEMETRIUS SHIPP JR., KRISTEN RADTKE, AMY SHIELS 24 DRINKS WITH… ROB OF SILENCIO 28 PUNK AS FUCK WITH DAMIAN ABRAHAM, FEATURING STEVE ALBINI AND DON BOLLES 32 MOUNTAIN TO SOUND: THE RETURNING PEAKS AND HIDDEN VALLEYS OF SPOON 36 THREE MILLENNIA AND COUNTING: THE RETURN OF “MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000” 44 THOMAS MIDDLEDITCH: EXTREMELY VINCIBLE

FLOOD MAGAZINE IS PUBLISHED BY FLOOD MAGAZINE LLC, 542 N. LARCHMONT BLVD., LOS ANGELES CA 90004. VOLUME 1, NUMBER 6, 2017. FLOOD MAGAZINE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING, INCLUDING THE RETURN OR LOSS OF SUBMISSIONS, OR FOR ANY DAMAGE OR OTHER INJURY TO UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS OR ARTWORK. ANY SUBMISSION OF A MANUSCRIPT OR ARTWORK SHOULD INCLUDE A SELF-ADDRESSED ENVELOPE OR PACKAGE OF APPROPRIATE SIZE, BEARING ADEQUATE RETURN POSTAGE. ©2017 FLOOD MAGAZINE LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. FLOOD IS DISTRIBUTED FOR FREE IN SELECT LOCATIONS AND AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT FLOODMAGAZINE.COM

COVER SHOT BY KOURY ANGELO FOR FLOOD AT NEUEHOUSE HOLLYWOOD

58 NOIRWAVE BREAKS FREE: RHARHA NEMBHARD AND THE INFINITE WAVE OF POSSIBILITIES


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Between bouts of sunflower-seed spitting, I’ve taken to calling FLOOD 6 “The Failure Issue.” Much like his character in Silicon Valley, Thomas Middleditch took a path to glory that began in and wound through the darkness of valleys big and small. Britt Daniel of Spoon was at one point so despondent about his band’s future that he moved from Austin to New York and worked temp gigs. Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Joel Hodgson was only able to realize his vision after burning out in Hollywood. Rharha Nembhard and Yannick Ilunga were sick of hearing Africa evaluated in relation to the West, so they abandoned the concept of borders entirely. But nobody in this issue of FLOOD felt the breath of the brink more than the Beastie Boys. Coming off of the catastrophic commercial failure of Paul’s Boutique, and with their burgeoning careers at stake, Adam Horovitz, Michael Diamond, and Adam Yauch holed up in their LA studio with a stack of records and put together Check Your Head, an album that would define their lasting sound and image, and that would have a hand in shaping the popular culture of the ’90s. It’s a tale so complex, we didn’t think a single story could do it justice, so we decided to explore the album—and the culture its creation would enable—from every angle we could think of across an entire side of the magazine. Of course, this is also our first issue without Pat McGuire, our longtime editor-in-chief and donut patron. Nearly every writer in this magazine worked with Pat at some point, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that he is as good a friend as he is an editor; in my mind, there’s no compliment higher. That means I’m sitting in a very large chair indeed, and the view from here is fairly intimidating. But at the risk of sounding like your dad, I’ve learned a thing or two from reading these stories as many times as I have—not only about the value of perseverance (a virtue that came in handy every night around 11 p.m. while we were wrapping this thing up), but also about the conditions we sometimes need in order to discover ourselves. Only then can we figure out where we’re headed. All of which is a very long and protracted way of saying that while we’re sad to leave behind familiar shores, we’re excited to be out here on the uncharted waters—and we’re glad you’re out here with us.

— Marty Sartini Garner, Editor-in-Chief


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BREAKING

BENJAMIN BOOKER

BACKSTORY: A young music journalist turns legit with guitar in hand FROM: Raised in Tampa, made his name in New Orleans, and now living in Los Angeles YOU MIGHT KNOW HIM FROM: His self-titled debut or his spots opening for Jack White and Courtney Barnett NOW: Getting ready to release his sophomore album, Witness, on ATO

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FLOOD


THE TITLE TRACK FROM BENJAMIN BOOKER’S NEW ALBUM WITNESS IS A CLARION CALL. “Right now we could use a little pick-me-up /

followed him. “It was just one of those moments where you realize, ‘I gotta take

Seems like the whole damn nation’s trying to take us down,” he sings. “They

same thing is happening everywhere.”

say you’re dangerous, cancerous, not to trust / Now everybody that’s brown can

get the fuck on the ground.”

Booker went from making $800 a month working for AmeriCorps to playing

care of my house, my home, where I live,’” he says. “You know what I mean? The Not that the last three years haven’t given him plenty of means for escape.

It’s a not-at-all-veiled analysis of the state of our union, both sensitive and

Letterman in a matter of months after the release of his album. “I didn’t start

outraged. Booker’s raspy voice is filled with hope but tinged with resignation,

playing music until right before all of that happened,” he says. “So I didn’t even

and it’s lifted out of the darkness by the legendary bellow of Mavis Staples, who

know how to set up my guitar amp.”

duets on the track.

It would’ve been hard to imagine hearing a song quite like “Witness” from

more self-assured than ever. “It was pretty difficult at the beginning,” he says. “But

Booker in 2014, when his eponymous debut first thrust him into the public eye. Back

I think that like any job, over time it becomes a lot easier, and maybe halfway into

With one world tour under his belt, the former aspiring music journalist is

then he was just making a name for himself as a

[the touring cycle] it started to feel comfortable.”

gravelly voiced blues practitioner with a penchant

for gritty punk. “Slow Coming,” from Benjamin

be pigeonholed like many a musician of color

Booker, expressed his general fatigue and frustration with modern society, proving that he had the chops for politically charged songwriting, though it might have lacked the sense of urgency needed to translate it into action.

“WHAT I FELT WAS THE TEMPORARY PEACE THAT

But for both Booker and the United States,

2014 seems like eons ago: before Freddie Gray, before Sandra Bland, before President Trump—all of them catalysts that brought larger social issues to the forefront of Booker’s mind. As he puts it, he’s asking the questions that not even his hero James Baldwin could fully answer just over thirty

In an effort to avoid complacency—or worse,

before him—Booker sought to expand his musical repertoire for Witness. “[I was] trying to break away from the things that I started with on the first record,” he says. “My taste from the last album has completely changed. I think I was very much into blues music and garage rock…[but] I’ve moved away to ’70s Afro-psych music. [Bands like] Sly & the

CAN COME FROM

Family Stone [were] a huge influence. I’m listening

LOOKING AWAY.”

and how the other instruments work in and out of

years ago when faced with similar spectacles of

to more hip-hop, and I’m more interested in rhythm that. I’m allowing for more space this time.”

With the help of producer Sam Cohen (who’s

backed everyone from Kevin Morby to Bob Weir as

injustice near the end of his life: “Am I going to be

a session player), Booker was able to make Witness

a witness?” Booker asks. “And in today’s world, is that enough?”

into a taut, polished product that’s more of a distant cousin to his reckless debut

The album’s title track was written in a matter of minutes and was largely

than a direct predecessor. “Going into this album, I just wanted to take the songs as

inspired by a trip to Mexico City in March of 2016. Feeling overwhelmed and

far as they could go,” he says. “And I think that getting there, and working with new

uninspired by the state of the nation, he did what many people wished they

musicians and a new producer and everything, I really had to put my ego aside.”

could have done this last year—he left the US, flocking like a monarch butterfly

to what he thought would be a more inviting climate. In a statement, Booker

prepared him for the task of putting out an album like Witness, which he says

wrote, “I was almost entirely cut off from my home. Free from the news. Free

is “about the things that I’d never wanted to talk about.” Perhaps that’s what it

from politics. Free from friends. What I felt was the temporary peace that can

means to be a witness in 2017: to stare unflinchingly at that which terrifies us

come from looking away.”

most and confront it head on, and to recognize all the flaws in the world around

us and within ourselves. Sometimes all it takes is a voice like Booker’s to speak

It wasn’t until he got caught in a physical altercation outside a bar in

Condesa that he realized the discrimination and chaos he was running from had

The maturation that Booker underwent as a musician and as a person

that unpleasant truth.

BY NATASHA AFTANDILIANS PHOTO BY NEIL KRUG FLOOD

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BREAKING

CHASTITY BELT WITH SONG TITLES LIKE “GIANT (VAGINA)” AND “PUSSY WEED BEER,” it’s pretty clear that humor has driven the music of Chastity Belt

is something she’s battled with in the past, but the album title in particular is

since the four-piece’s first record, 2013’s No Regerts. And in some ways

weird way,” Shapiro says.

it’s served as a coping mechanism for the band. “On past records we were

For I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, Chastity Belt recruited

kind of hiding behind our humor, and [we] put up a front,” says frontwoman

the English producer (and current Wire guitarist) Matthew Simms, who

Julia Shapiro. “Now that we’re feeling a little more confident and have more

recorded the group at Jackpot! Recording Studio in Portland, where Pacific

experience, we don’t necessarily need to do that.”

Northwest legends like Elliott Smith and Built to Spill have laid tape.

Before Chastity Belt, none of the members had been in a band before. “I

“He had a really good idea of what guitar tones we should [use], and he

think it took pretending it was a joke and not [really] trying in order to take

wired a ton of abstract parts that use a lot of pedals to make the songs

the risk to actually perform in front of people,” explains Shapiro. “It’s easy if

atmospheric,” says Shapiro.

you’re not taking it seriously because you can laugh it off.”

But with their third album, I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, Shapiro,

hermits, either; when it came time to choose the first single from the record,

Lydia Lund, Annie Truscott, and Gretchen Grimm use vulnerability in a much

they enlisted the help of their friends. The melodic post-punk cut “Different

more

While the group has turned inward of late, they haven’t exactly become

manner—

Now” garnered the strongest

all the way down to the

response, as Shapiro sings

titles of the songs. On

what every person in their

the truncated semi-title

mid-twenties contemplates:

track “Used to Spend,”

“You should take some time

Shapiro sings, “I wanna be

to figure out your life.”

sincere”—a message to

“I

fans that the band is ready

maturing—getting

to be its most candid self.

at playing our instruments

and getting better at playing

their

mature

representative of Chastity Belt’s new direction. “It ties into us growing up in a

More important for development

think

we’re

all

better

was

with each other,” she says.

Shapiro realizing that even

“Some would say our new

though she loves being

record is more serious, but I

around other people, she

think we’re just getting more

could stand to spend more

comfortable being a more

time alone. That struggle

serious, real band.”

MEMBERS: Julia Shapiro (vocals/guitar), Lydia Lund (lead guitar), Annie Truscott (bass), Gretchen Grimm (drums) FOUNDED: 2010 FROM: Walla Walla, Washington, before settling in Seattle YOU MIGHT KNOW THEM FROM: Their 2013 debut album No Regerts, 2015 sophomore effort Time to Go Home, or the challenge they present to gender norms through their raucous songs NOW: Releasing their third full-length, I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, via Hardly Art

BY ILANA KAPLAN PHOTO BY CONNER LYONS 18

FLOOD


BREAKING

DEMETRIUS SHIPP JR. DEMETRIUS SHIPP JR. MUST HAVE A GREAT MEMORY.

At least, that’s how it seems as he rattles off ostensibly trivial dates

admits, thinking about what he’s taken from the experience of being Tupac. “Also,

marking his journey from cable guy to starring as Tupac Shakur in All Eyez on Me,

be real with yourself at all times. Through the good, bad, and ugly, he was always

the long-in-production film about the life (and death) of the iconic emcee.

real with himself. He would say if something’s wrong. He would never think that

he had all the answers, or that he was always right, or that it was his way or no

“I was a candidate since 2011. I was officially cast twelve days before

“You see that he just didn’t make the best choices that he could,” Shipp

pre-production—November 18, [2015,]” he remembers, as if he’s charting the

way. He was open to change and he was open to being wrong.”

time on a calendar. “We began filming in December, 2015. The majority of it we

filmed in Atlanta, and we finished up on February 28, [2016]. We took a month

The resemblance is practically unnerving. So much so that once he started

Beyond that is the eeriest coincidence of all: Shipp looks exactly like Tupac.

off…and finished up completely in

taking acting classes—having

April—April 17—after the last three

no experience whatsoever in

days of filming in Las Vegas.”

the craft—his fortunate casting

Dig a little deeper, and you

didn’t alienate him from his

realize there are coincidences:

peers. His fellow artists knew it

the twenty-eight-year-old Shipp’s

was a matter of destiny.

birthday is November 20, two days

after he was cast as Shakur—a

people who were taking that

date he won’t soon forget. And

long trip [to stardom],” he says.

then there’s fate: Shipp’s father

“And I’m amongst these people

was a regular at Death Row

who are bartending, who have

Records and knew Tupac; he

been at this for years just trying

worked on production for “Toss It

to land any role. Their reception

Up,” from Shakur’s posthumous

and their reaction was that this

fifth album, The Don Killuminati:

role was meant for me. Relations,

The 7 Day Theory, and assisted

timing... It just really feels like

on the soundtrack to the rapper’s

this was all meant to be.”

first film vehicle, Juice.

over what it means for a previously

“I knew certain things my

father would tell me—certain little…

“I

sat

with

actors

and

The more Shipp ruminates

unskilled actor to take on such a culturally daunting role, the more

words carefully. “He would reveal

BACKSTORY: Auditioned for the role of Tupac Shakur in 2011 while working odd jobs (including installing satellite dishes for Dish Network), and despite having no real acting experience or even ambitions of becoming an actor, he got the part—over four years later

this to me, just how [Tupac] dealt

FROM: Carson, California

Everything just lined up perfectly,

with family issues. Intimate things.

YOU MIGHT KNOW HIM FROM: Probably nowhere—yet—though his uncanny resemblance to Tupac might convince you otherwise

almost celestially so: “It was

issues?” Shipp says, choosing his

I learned so much about how he came to be the man he was, the

NOW: Leading Benny Boom’s biopic All Eyez on Me and running his own record label, Push the Line

situations that led to him...basically

he seems to intuit a higher calling.

ordered as far as I’m concerned.”

As he waits for the film to

premiere and for his fledgling

being in that car that night.”

gig to balloon into a full-on career—complete with expectations and agents and

high-profile opportunities—what’s left might be the hardest part: getting out of

He’s referring of course to the night of September 7, 1996, when Shakur

took four bullets in a drive-by shooting off of the Vegas Strip, leading to his death

the character he was born to play.

six days later. Filming in Vegas—and reenacting those fatal moments—provided

Shipp with the chance to peel away the last vestiges of iconography to get at the

“so I’ve de-characterized. I don’t have any struggle there. The mannerisms, I’ve

man he was tasked with playing, flaws and all.

let go of those. I’ve let go of Tupac.”

“The good thing is that it’s been a while [since the film wrapped],” he says,

BY DOM SINACOLA PHOTO BY QUANTRELL COLBERT FLOOD

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BREAKING

KRISTEN RADTKE

BACKSTORY: An artist and publishing professional whose illustrated works consistently ask interesting questions about the relationships between people and places FROM: Green Bay, Wisconsin; now based in Brooklyn, New York YOU MIGHT KNOW HER FROM: The New Yorker, where she’s currently contributing a series on the loneliness of various experiences (the subway nap, the parking-lot phone call, the longing for other people’s apartments) NOW: Keeping the independent publishing dream alive at Sarabande Books, where she’s the managing editor, and promoting her graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This, out via Pantheon

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FLOOD


KRISTEN RADTKE’S IMAGINE WANTING ONLY THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2017, but it’s not at

doesn’t land that way. There is a

all the kind of book that she first

depressing nor nihilistic. Radtke

set out to write. Her original idea

reckons with ghosts and ruins

was for a collection of essays

by allowing them to speak for

about the ruins that she seemed

themselves—by allowing them to

driven to explore. But as the

be silent. And there’s a real sense

prose spilled into images, and

of peace in that experience.

kind of warning here, certainly— we’re all gonna die, after all—but the book as a whole is neither

as the hybridized essays extended into

something

that

“I have a friend who copes with

might

bad news by saying something to

become a book, she was left to

the effect of, ‘Fuck it, the world’s

confront a somewhat frightening

gonna end anyway.’ That gives me

reality: She was writing a graphic

a great deal of anxiety, but also

memoir. And if her publisher

some degree of comfort,” she says.

had its way, she was going to

“I also have a lot of male friends—

have to be more than just a

artists

background character.

be studied someday. I have no

desire for the world to ever have a

“‘Memoir’ was a dirty word

mainly—who

want

to

in my MFA program,” Radtke says,

Radtke

and she readily confesses that

would be cool! I [just] don’t need

she wasn’t well-read in graphic

[my work] to live on in the world

nonfiction

after I’m gone.”

when

she

began

the project. The resulting book, however,

operates

as

personal

and

meditation

essay,

that

There’s nothing like writing

once

a book about the end of all

memoir,

things to give a body some

topic

perspective, one would suppose.

of annihilation. One particularly

That said, don’t be fooled by the

arresting

on

at

scholar—although

chapter

the

weaves

philosophical modesty; Imagine

together an anecdote about one of Radtke’s ancestors, an account of a

Wanting Only This is a very ambitious book. But it’s also just a book. We can’t

devastating firestorm in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and a historical discussion about

take it with us when the waves come rolling over our cities, when the fires

the development of napalm in the American West (where 6,400 sheep bled to

raze our towns, when our hearts give out. No one and nothing is immortal—

death after grazing on poisoned grass).

and no amount of awards or honors can change that fact.

The book also concludes with imagined visions of New York City overtaken

Nevertheless, Radtke is already working on another book. Because, as she

by the sea and the words “You will have touched nothing on the earth.”

puts it, “Everything will be dark and done, of course. But that doesn’t mean we

shouldn’t try to do as much as we can in the meantime.”

Does that sound bleak? You would be forgiven for thinking so. But it

BY DANIEL HARMON Images from Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This, published by Pantheon Books. Copyright 2017 Kristen Radtke. FLOOD

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BREAKING

AMY SHIELS LONG BEFORE AMY SHIELS RECEIVED AN INVITATION TO ENTER THE HAUNTED WOODS OF A SMALL TOWN IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST,

“In TM, you’re given a mantra for life and you never tell anyone. The land of Lynchian

she called the green hills, crashing coast, and looming castles of Ireland home.

“Ireland has always been a mystical place, a land of storytellers,” she elaborates,

share one behind-the-scenes detail: the joy of working with Lynch and Frost.

recalling its evocative twilight that seems to hold “anything you can imagine.”

“Lynch is the safety net. He is the godfather to everyone, and he makes you feel

Still, she never imagined being a performer until she stumbled across a showcase

so safe. When he directs you, you feel like an instrument of his art. It floods

in Dublin one night and swapped her young dreams of becoming a jockey for

through you. And Frost always gets a positive message across. They’re so

art is built around secrets like that.” Though closely guarded secrets make for long waits, Shiels is eager to

taming an even more difficult beast:

inclusive, encouraging, [and]

an acting career. “The job is a constant

supportive… People feel that

rush of rejection and adrenaline,” she

they can release their inner

says. “There’s rarely a middle ground.”

weirdness because they know

Peaks and valleys, one might say.

there’s no judgment.”

On the set of one of her first

films, the coming-of-age tale Cowboys Legge

proved vital to populating a

introduced her to David Lynch and Mark

town that’s anything but safe.

Frost’s iconic TV sensation, the soap-

Afterwards, Shiels

mystery-horror-comedy

thanked

&

Angels,

co-star

Michael

The safe space Frost and

Lynch crafted for their actors

hybrid

Twin

David

says, “I

for

lending

Peaks, and she instantly joined the cult.

me this character they let me

“I fell in love. I was laughing, crying,

embody for this short time. I

terrified—a rainbow of emotions in one

will carry this character with

show,” she says.

me forever.” She’ll be carrying

Years

later,

a

guide

would

a crowded slate of international

manifest unexpectedly to bring Shiels

projects as well, ranging from

into the series’ long-awaited third

animation voiceovers to an Irish

season—the beginning of a fittingly peripatetic journey to a show informed

BACKSTORY: An Irish actress who lives in the moment but carries her characters in her heart— and her heart on her sleeve—prominently enough to catch the eye of iconic auteurs

by dream logic and surreal cosmic

FROM: Malahide, Ireland, just outside Dublin

occurrences. A screen test for a part she didn’t receive fell into the hands of casting director and longtime Lynch

YOU MAY KNOW HER FROM: The Irish indie film scene, where she first grabbed the public’s attention in Cowboys & Angels in 2003, and more recently in the 2012 horror movie Citadel NOW: Forever entering the mythology of Twin Peaks, the third season of which hits Showtime May 21

collaborator Johanna Ray, who worked

drama alongside Stephen Dorff. Beyond acting, she’s producing a

documentary

about

race

relations in America called The Dark Dollar

and

developing

directorial projects inspired in part by her time with Lynch.

on the original run of Twin Peaks. Ray reached out to her and became her

mentor. Soon Shiels was flying across an ocean to meet Lynch in person and

character in the show, Shiels reflects on what home means to her now. “I don’t

join the veteran cast for the season, playing the only new recurring character to

see myself as coming from one place,” she says. “I’ve been so welcomed by

appear in all eighteen episodes.

America. I’ve been rejected, but also supported. I have a different emotion about

As for who exactly that character is or how she fits into the tiny mountain

what [success] means every day, but I’ve come to realize how universal our

town, you’ll have to tune in and see—everything is shrouded in secrecy, right

problems are. We all just want to go home at night.” Considering how welcomed

down to her character’s name. “I don’t even know what it’s about! I only know the

the show’s creators, collaborators, and fanbase have made her feel, Amy Shiels

scenes I was in. But it’s almost like meditation, in a way,” she ventures, drawing a

will always have a home in Twin Peaks—where the nights are long, mysterious,

personal parallel to Transcendental Meditation, which both she and Lynch practice.

and hold “anything you can imagine.”

As fellow Twin Peaks fans eagerly anticipate their introduction to her

BY ERIC STOLZE PHOTO BY YVONNE TNT 22

FLOOD


A refreshing new take on our classic Cold Brew.

Available in Original, Honey Lemon & Ginger Citrus


DRINKS

WITH

ROB OF SILENCIO

24

FLOOD


EACH ISSUE, FLOOD ASKS ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST OUTSTANDING BARKEEPERS TO GIVE US THE LOWDOWN ON THEIR FAVORITE DRINKS. THIS INSTALLMENT: ROB McHARDY OF SILENCIO, DAVID LYNCH’S REAL-WORLD ADAPTATION OF THE OTHERWORLDLY CLUB SILENCIO FROM MULHOLLAND DRIVE, WHICH SITS DOWN SIX FLIGHTS OF STAIRS ON THE RUE MONTMARTRE, QUITE LITERALLY IN THE BELLY OF PARIS’S 2ND ARRONDISSEMENT.

SEAWORTHY / PHOTO BY RUSH JAGOE

BLOODY YOSHI

VIOLET HOUR

“The wonderful Mr. Toshiro Kuroda, sake evangelist and owner of Izakaya Issé, has introduced me to so many new flavors and possibilities. When he showed me his tomato shochu I went straight for a Bloody Mary twist with as many of his Japanese products as possible. The Norwegian potato vodka is the only exception, and it sits respectfully in the blend.”

“Real ‘noses’ in the perfume industry are as rare as hens’ teeth— apparently there’s more astrOnauts on Earth than noses. One such nose, Jean Christophe Herault from IFF, helped me to create a perfume with orris, violet, and whisky lactone aromas to go with my Pisco champagne and cucumber drink. This cocktail gets a mention because I enjoy watching my guests’ reaction to it, and because getting to collaborate with a real perfumer is a wonderful privilege that I don’t take for granted.”

1⅔ oz. Sakura Muromachi Tomato Shu (a shochu-based tomato liqueur) ½ oz. Christiania Vodka Grilled sesame seeds Mixed Japanese pepper 1 teaspoon Furusato Yuzu Kosho (a green, spicy yuzu paste) 1 teaspoon Marunaka soy sauce Fresh cilantro Cherry tomatoes

1 oz. Pisco Waqar 2 teaspoons of perfumed simple syrup 4 oz. Perrier-Jouët A thin, long slice of cucumber In a pre-chilled wine glass, serve on one small ice cube and give a little stir.

Muddle the cilantro with a cherry tomato; then add the rest of the ingredients and stir, double strain, and serve in a champagne coupette. Garnish with cherry tomatoes and a dash of the pepper and sesame seeds. FLOOD

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ROYAL ROSE “I got asked to create a cocktail last summer for the Queen’s ninetieth birthday celebration at the Guards Polo Club at the Ascot Racecourse. Barnabé Fillion, the creative advisor for Royal Salute and also an olfactory designer, spoke with the royal florist, who told him that the Queen’s favorite flower is the rose. We wanted to create something spectacular and accessible, and got to push the boat out when we asked for centifolia rose perfume from Grasse—which is more expensive than gold—and ordered five-hundred handmade rosebud-encrusted ice cubes.” 1⅔ oz. Royal Salute 21 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky ⅓ oz. Lapsang Souchong syrup ⅔ oz. Assam tea ⅛ oz. fresh lemon juice 1 oz. torrified barley water ⅛ oz. Valdespino El Candado Pedro Ximénez sherry ⅛ oz.Valdespino Don Gonzalo Oloroso sherry ⅛ oz. Oleo saccharum ⅛ oz. Hydrolat de Rose de Damas ¼ oz. Royal Salute 21 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky with Bourbon vetiver, timur pepper, bergamot, and centifolia rose perfumes Serve as a punch for a few hundred well-heeled VIPs while they watch polo.

RHUBARB RHUBARB “This is kind of a guilty pleasure cocktail from Silencio’s second menu that still gets asked for. Named for what film extras are said to be muttering in order to look and sound like they’re having a conversation, the title seemed appropriate to use for a club designed by one of cinema’s all-time greats.” ⅔ oz. Mount Gay Eclipse rum ⅔ oz. Christian Drouin selection calvados ⅔ oz. homemade vanilla syrup 1 oz. fresh rhubarb juice 1 oz. Nigori Umeshu (a wonderful unfiltered plum liqueur) 1 dash Bad Dog Sarsaparilla Dry Bitters Shake and pour on ice in a highball. Garnish with a baton of rhubarb pickled in raspberry vinegar and sugar.

OVAL #5 “My father is a cricket fan, and the Oval is a famous cricket ground in South London; Oval was named in his honor. We’ve had a different Oval in each menu since the beginning in 2011, but when I removed the number five, the regulars and my bosses got upset, so it’s become a mainstay and a best-seller that suits our clubbing atmosphere.” 1⅔ oz. makrut lime leaf–infused Absolut Vodka ⅘ oz. fresh ginger, lemongrass, lemon, sugar cordial ½ oz. fresh lemon juice Serve straight into a crushed ice–filled highball. Garnish with a slice of cucumber in silent protest at so many people asking for “something with cucumber in it.” 26

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SATAN’S GRAFFITI OR GOD’S ART? THE NEW ALBUM

SEAN LENNON YOKO ONO and SAUL ADAMCZEWSKI produced by

featuring

out

MAY 5

on

Records

www.black-lips.com


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X

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X

X

FFLLOOOODD

3311


MOUNTAIN TO SOUND:

T

H

E

The last time Spoon had a release on Matador Records, it was the first day of Bill Clinton’s second term. The label was gearing up to push Brighten the Corners and I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, and the top movie in the nation was Beverly Hills Ninja. Britt Daniel, then twenty-five, was actively being compared to Black Francis of the recently broken-up Pixies.

RETURNING

The release at hand was the Soft Effects EP, which was something of a companion to the band’s debut full-length Telephono— also on Matador. Despite its themes of dismemberment and paranoia—not to mention its carefree use of the word “motherfucker”—that LP had been the source of a bidding war from labels, who were smitten with the rough and ragged

PEAKS

AND

collection of songs recorded on a tight budget in a garage. “‘Garage’ might be a grandiose way of putting it,” laughs Daniel, talking on the phone from South by Southwest in Austin, where he and his bandmates—Jim Eno, Rob Pope, and Alex Fischel—are hometown heroes. The quartet’s presence at the 2017 installment of the festival is in support of Spoon’s ninth LP, Hot Thoughts—

H I D D E N

their latest in an absolutely baffling run of consistently great albums dating back to 1998’s A Series of Sneaks, and their prodigal return to Matador twenty years after they first split. “I kind of feel now like I did back in ’95 when we were being courted by all these major labels,” says Daniel. “I thought, ‘If we could have success with any label I’d rather have success with Matador, so let’s

VA L L E Y S

give it a shot.’ Just that logo and what the company has done in terms of putting out records is pretty amazing.” The label might be the same, but a lot has changed for the band since the Telephono/Soft Effects days—and not just regarding the nation’s relative taste for slapstick ninja movies and presidential

OF

SPOON

scandals. For starters, back in 1994, Spoon was outright rejected from SXSW (they played an unofficial party instead, where it just so happens that they were discovered by Matador’s Gerard Cosloy, who soon signed them). This year, on the other hand, they hosted a three-day showcase.

BY NATE ROGERS PHOTO BY CAMBRIA HARKEY

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Daniel is now forty-five, still has dirty blond hair (cut sharp), and

But there’s something else about the Tokyo story that is

answers questions with a cool, calm assurance. He thinks carefully

quintessentially Spoon. Like many past classics from the band,

before he speaks, has a subtle Texas accent, and has an even more

“Hot Thoughts” places you in an exact location: “Whether [it’s] a

subtle sense of humor. (His Facebook page, for instance, lists a

boot shop or outside a record store or on the street in Shibuya,”

contact number that puts you in touch with a plasma donation

Daniel explains, “I want to get some some specific language that

center in Van Nuys, California.) Another way of putting it: for one

places it somewhere. Sometimes you can just sing in pronouns

of the most legitimate rock stars alive, he’s very well put together.

and that’s easy—but it doesn’t really stick with you, you know?”

And yet, he’s mysterious all the same—especially when you try to figure him out via his music.

The boot shop that he’s talking about is Dorian’s in Portland (referenced in “Black Like Me” from 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga)

“I go with the vibe that a songwriter can write from many

and the record store is Sound Exchange in Austin (referenced

perspectives,” Daniel explains, “and that not every song has to be

in “Anything You Want” from 2001’s Girls Can Tell). The full

about me or from me. I think every writer should feel entitled to

effect of this narrative technique—jumping around from

do that.”

character to character, place to place—makes listening to a Spoon album somewhat akin to the experience of watching a

Case in point: lead single and album title track “Hot Thoughts,”

film from another beloved Austin figure: Richard Linklater’s

which, ostensibly, is one of the most straightforwardly sexy songs

Slacker. You can feel the textures and hear the conversations,

that Daniel has ever written (“I tell it to you slow when I want ya

but you’ll never really get handed the full scope of what’s going

to know,” he croons), but is in fact layered with more sinister

on. That’s ultimately on you. And like Linklater, Daniel has

undertones. Specifically, the line “Your teeth shinin’ so white / Light

also in recent years suddenly found himself in the position of

up this side street in Shibuya tonight” takes on a whole new meaning

being an elder statesman of a scene that he originally helped

when you learn the full context of the creepy scene that inspired it.

to build—just don’t call it “indie.”

“My girlfriend was in Shibuya [in Tokyo],” as Daniel tells it, “and

“I never really understood what ‘indie rock’ meant,” he says. “As

some guy came up to her on the street, late at night, and told her

a term of commerce I understand it: a band on an independent

that her teeth looked beautiful and shiny. I thought that was a

label. But when you’re talking about a genre, I don’t think

pretty...original way to hit on my girlfriend.”

there’s any consensus. To me, if I had to guess, it means a band that doesn’t try very hard. Or kind of wants to play, like, cool

This isn’t a unique example. The band’s discography is littered

rules. ‘Junior Leagues Rock.’”

with songs that sound smooth and seductive when taken at face value—you’ll catch Spoon songs in commercials and soundtracks

As you can imagine, then, Daniel doesn’t think there’s any

with some regularity—but carry with them manic, unpredictable

credence to the “indie is dead” argument, either: “I don’t know

chord progressions and lyrics about obscure medical conditions

that it’s dead when it seems like every band that’s got guitars

and “parking lot town[s]”; there are minors where there should

in it that isn’t Maroon 5 is pretty much looked at as indie rock

be majors, insecurities where there should be bravado. As if to

at this point,” he says. “I mean, what are the major rock bands?

illustrate this point, both sides of Hot Thoughts, the band’s most

I don’t know. I certainly don’t think that the term is dead.

pop-friendly release since 2005’s Gimme Fiction, are capped with

Maybe it should be dead.”

semi-instrumental abstractions. Just to keep you on your toes in case you get too comfortable.

34

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“I CERTAINLY DON’T In the immediate aftermath of Telephono, things did not go well for Spoon. The album sold as many copies in its initial run as the amount of dollars that were spent on its production (3,000), and the band subsequently went through a rotating cast of bass players as Daniel worked with Eno—the backbone of the group from the very beginning—to carry on as a shaky three-piece, picking up opening spots on tours that they didn’t want to be on in the first place. Their relationship with Matador ended soon after Soft

THINK

THAT

THE

TERM [INDIE ROCK] IS DEAD. MAYBE IT SHOULD

BE

DEAD.”

Effects, which led to the infamous Elektra Records/Series of Sneaks scandal that almost sank the band. (Long story short: a three-album deal isn’t actually a three-album deal if the label changes their mind later.) (Long story even shorter: listen to the band’s single written about the whole affair, “The Agony of Laffitte”/ “Laffitte Don’t Fail Me Now.”) By 1999, Daniel was dejected and uninspired. He moved to New York and took a job as an assistant at a bank. He wore a suit. But that wasn’t the end of the story, of course. Spoon regrouped and found their commercial footing on Merge Records, and these days, their name is synonymous with consistency and quality and style. So you’ll have to forgive Daniel if he isn’t worried about the next generation of bands surviving the death of indie. “When you’re starting out and people don’t know about you, you’re not gonna make money,” he laughs. “But [musicians] find it worthwhile to keep doing it because music unites people and reaches your emotions directly. It’s an art that you can do by yourself and you don’t have to count on the funding for it.” He pauses here. The interview’s almost up, and Spoon have a showcase to headline. “It’s a beautiful thing.”

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THREE MILLENNIA AND COUNTING: THE RETURN OF “MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000” IT’S NO MYSTERY. IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. IT ONLY LOOKS LIKE IT.

BY A.D. AMOROSI IMAGES COURTESY OF NETFLIX

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CROW T. ROBOT, GYPSY, JONAH RAY, AND TOM SERVO

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The end of the ’80s gave birth to a lot of silly things: the Bush Dynasty, JNCO Jeans, the Insane Clown Posse, and Michael Keaton as Batman amongst them. Who knew that “the not-too-distant-future”— and a snarky one at that— commenced at the same time, in the distant land of Minnesota, on a UHF channel serving greater Minneapolis and Saint Paul?

3 83 8 F LFOLOODO D


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JOEL HODGSON AND THE ’BOTS


JOEL HODGSON, DIRECTOR ROBERT COHEN, JONAH RAY

CROW T. ROBOT AND HAMPTON YOUNT

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TOM SERVO AND BARON VAUGHN

FELICIA DAY AND PATTON OSWALT


It’s here, at the Gizmonic Institute’s super-secret Deep 13 underground

receded to his Midwestern roots to psychically regroup before he wound

lab, where two evil scientists tossed janitor Joel Robinson into space

up at KTMA. “I was doing standup on Letterman and Saturday Night Live,

via the dog bone–shaped Satellite of Love capsule. Joel’s mission?

but there had to be something more,” he says. He had the idea of people

To view countless D-level movies in order to find the best (or worst?)

looking, laughing, and comically commenting on movies while in high

so that the mad docs could forge its strength in building a weapon of

school, and the concept of local “monster movie hosts” appealed to him,

mass destruction—campy delight free of saccharine sentiment being a

too. The notion of using cheesy public domain films as his fodder came

fortunate byproduct. As no man is an island, and no truly bad movie is

later, however, and by his time in Minneapolis it became a fiscal necessity.

worth viewing without a crowd to razz it, the handy Joel built robots

“Being inexpensive made it feasible for those who might back it—that and

from his rocket’s existing parts to be his viewing partners. Now, with

making sure the found-object robots I built were easy and cheap to make.”

the companionship of the ’bots—Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, Gypsy, and several others—Joel could enjoy-by-not-enjoying the movies he was

MST3K returns in 2017 with its traditions intact and its snark at full blast.

forced to watch, cracking wise with his pals while the films unfurled in

“The only real difference between the original and the new one is that it’s

order to maintain their sanity.

faster,” says Hodgson. That and one other thing: “I think the idea [when we decided to bring the show back was that it] would have to be like James

That’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K), the smartly comic television

Bond… [The host has] to have nerd sex appeal—as well as be able to riff and

program whose characters are seen in silhouette as they riff through more

collaborate with the movie you’re screening.”

pop-cultural references than Dennis Miller on meth. Created by standup Joel Hodgson, who played the janitor from 1988 to 1993 (when head writer

“The whole thing still feels nuts to me,” says sexually appealing nerd Jonah

Michael J. Nelson took over), MST3K jumped from Minneapolis’s KTMA to

Ray, who, in addition to playing the role of the new host—Jonah Heston—on

the nascent Comedy Central, and finally to the Sci-Fi Channel, where in 1999

the rebooted MST3K, also co-hosts the Nerdist podcast with Chris Hardwick

it logged off and away for good. Until now, that is: A rebooted version of the

and Matt Mira. “I mean, I’m one of three, not one of a hundred. More people

show makes its way into our galaxy via Netflix in April.

have played Doctor Who and Spider-Man than the janitor.”

Hodgson, now fifty-seven, was raised on the films that MST3K made fun

Ray was handpicked by Hodgson himself in 2015 after the creator was on

of: think tacky, grainy UHF culture and local pre-cable programming

the Nerdist program a few years prior, but the Hawaiian-born comedian

where farm shows, awkward children’s hosts, educational info-movies,

was a fan of the original MST3K as soon as it hit Kailua. “Most of my

and flying-saucer flicks intermingled every midnight. While the angle of

responses to people in daily life still come from the Mystery Science Theater

approach is still thrilling, younger viewers might need a glossary to follow

movie that came out in ’96,” he says. “I named the comedy albums I’ve

along. “That’s why we wanted to refresh the brand [for a new generation],

created after [the show’s] best lines. I say things from that show when I

because all of my references are from [a bygone] time,” Hodgson says.

pee. Before all that, [though,] I remember just turning on Comedy Central when it was getting started, and there was this weird, old, cheesy movie

That time might as well be a past life. Somewhat infamous for being an

on, and I thought, ‘Nooooooooooo!’ It only got worse when I thought the

in-demand Los Angeles comic who turned down a Michael J. Fox sitcom

TV was broken because there was all this talking over the film. Then I

because he just wasn’t feeling it, Hodgson left LA in the mid-’80s and

realized there was someone talking to space robots. Now I’m enthralled.”

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For Ray, the ad-hoc sound and vision of MST3K was not unlike the old

(the confusingly named TV’s Son of TV’s Frank). Vaughn was immersed in

Hollywood axiom of putting on a show in the barn—only, in space. “Like the

the concept of three robots and their janitor pal joking around—“only I was

punk rock that I loved, Hodgson’s production was very DIY,” Ray says. “It was

riffing along with them at home,” he says. “They were saying the things I

attainable. It looked like something I could do or piece together; even the

would say. I was saying the things they would say.”

comedy seemed attainable, because that’s how I spoke and joked.” Like Hodgson, the inventive Day (who was the creator, writer, and star of The Yale School of Drama–trained Bill Corbett, one of MST3K’s central

web series The Guild, which explored gaming subcultures) is someone with a

writers and one of the voices of Crow T. Robot (“Crow’s one of the greatest

personal obsession who made it work in a marketplace in need of something

dramatic characters in history,” he quips) is also involved with the new

bold. “I told Joel when I met him that I thought MST3K was an interactive-

iteration of the show and is convinced that the sandpaper-dry Ray is a fine

viewing Internet show before the Internet,” she says. “When MST3K would

match for Hodgson’s equally cool-witted janitor. “Jonah is an elegant fit,”

run the audience’s photos and letters, that really gave voice to its viewers; it

he says. “[The original] came from a different culture altogether, though:

was so ahead of its time. My brother and I felt very close to that show. We

different references, a different pace.”

would project ourselves into it, feel a part of it, and perform commentary along with the robots. That sort of comedy is [now] the most prevalent form

Mary Jo Pehl, another one of the central writers—and voice of

of humor because of the Internet’s sense of participation.

several MST3K characters—has also returned. “I had to,” she laughs. “Remembering the writers’ room sessions—and that we all had healthy

“I’m on the new MST3K because my brother loved this show almost as much

egos—I couldn’t help but be curious as to how this one would be

as me,” she says. “My fandom got me the job. I was at a convention that Joel

written. Plus I wanted to see how the new janitor worked out; Joel’s

was part of, and I needed to get a selfie of him with me for my brother. We

[version] was the ultimate everyman.” Yet as someone who has never

got to talking—Joel has a real feeling for fellow performers and he knows his

strayed far from Hodgson (she was part of his Cinematic Titanic film-riff

show—and the next thing you know I’m next to Jonah Ray, who fits that

series for six years), she’s hardly an impartial judge. “I like my humor

janitor jumpsuit like a glove.”

fast and furious. Joel and I knew each other originally from the old Los Angeles sketch comedy scene, and we have a deep and abiding love for

For the laid-back Hodgson, to speak about the return of Mystery Science

old, bad movies.”

Theater 3000 still seems weird. “I’m just amazed that seventeen years after we stopped, people are still thinking about us,” he says. But for Jonah Ray,

That seems to be the way it worked for devotees of the old show, including

the new voyage is something worthy of joy: “This MST3K feels so much the

Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn (who now play Crow and Tom, respectively),

same as the original. It’s wider, not redone but refreshed. You’ll be amazed.”

Felicia Day (the new mad scientist Kinga Forrester), and Patton Oswalt

The not-so-distant future just got a little closer.

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BY ERIC STOLZE PHOTOS SHOT BY KOURY ANGELO FOR FLOOD AT NEUEHOUSE HOLLYWOOD BY ERIC STOLZE PHOTOS BY KOURY ANGELO STYLE BY LAURA MAZZA GROOMING BY SHELLEY RICKMAN

ILLUSTRATION BY COLE GERST STYLE BY LAURA MAZZA GROOMING BY SHELLEY RICKMAN

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Tell a sensitive grade schooler who’s

speak in a stream of consciousness, but

teased every day that bullying gets better

Middleditch’s consciousness feels more

over time, and it’s likely to be small

like whitewater rapids, with a wide,

consolation at best. Tell that same kid

unguarded smile as the raft.

that sold-out crowds will one day laugh at stories of him asking a crush out eight

If an hour of following Middleditch’s mind

times in a single year, and he’s likely to

brings a sense of twisting, turning travel,

have a full-on breakdown.

it’s simply a condensed snapshot of what his life has granted him. He was born and

And yet, years down a road that will take

raised in Nelson, British Columbia, where

him from the small-town woodlands

his parents settled after emigrating from

of British Columbia to the sun-baked

England. “I was very fortunate—if I was

overstimulation of California, it will be

to be raised in any small town in rural

that same kid telling those stories before

Canada—to be raised in Nelson, where

an audience of fellow geeks at Largo. He’ll

there’s a vibrant arts community,” he says.

have the first and the last laugh, because

“I was able to get involved not only in

he’ll set the tone and own it. “Pretty

school theater, but [also] in community

much onstage therapy,” he’ll reflect on his

theater. That was the saving grace for

Instagram.

me, because I wasn’t a hockey player, or an aspiring logger. I wasn’t, like, Brody

“I’m potentially your nerdiest subject,”

Brylerson, snowboarder-extreme-guy.”

Thomas Middleditch remarks to the photography crew as he settles into a couch

At this, Middleditch strikes a pose and

under the lights of a Hollywood office six

enters into what one might call “character

floors above Sunset Boulevard.

parentheses.” “Although I do know how to shred. On skis. A gentleman’s sport!” He

“And the best one,” offers photographer

shifts gears again, smiling shyly: “Make sure

Koury Angelo as he sets up.

if I slip into voices you say it in parentheses or something.” Duly noted. 1

“That is undeniable. That was never in contention. No need to reaffirm that,”

Middleditch put up with “years of being

Middleditch responds, the yin and yang

teased and ostracized” during grade

of self-deprecation and self-confidence

school. “I was kind of the weirdo kid: very

that defines both his presence and his

emotional, very easy to get riled up. Very

comedy marking his speech. Fast talk

solo,” he says. As with many young geeks,

and manic connections, casual nonsense

a spotlight cut through the darkness and

and candid concerns, leaning in and out

illuminated a path. “In eighth grade my

of characters and accents to make a point

drama teacher put me in a play and that

or mock his own thoughts: a lot of comics

helped me find my calling.”

1 Brody Brylerson: bristling with the athletic bravado of an ’80s teen-movie villain you love to hate. FLOOD

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The play I’m a Fool—which is actually an

Middleditch’s Richard Hendricks might be

adaptation of a Sherwood Anderson short

the shakiest straight man in history, his

story—as summarized by its breakout

nervousness anything but a polished persona

star:

young

meant to carry a narrative or deliver jokes. As

whippersnapper—in the 1910s or ’20s.

his fledgling company is constantly threatened

They’re at the racetrack all summer, and—

under escalating stress factors, his social

oh, boy!—he met a girl he really liked, but he lost her, and ‘I’m a fool!’”2 Though the

anxiety reaches heights that are debilitating; he

play itself may be slightly less relevant than,

urgent uncertainty that comes off as more

say, a show about the pitfalls of start-up

real—and relatable—than rehearsed.

“It

was

about

a

kid—a

moves through the show with a stammering,

culture, the memories remain vivid and powerful—particularly a bit he created

“Richard is very tightly wound,” Middleditch

onstage where he’d stick his head through

explains. “He’s on his heels backtracking in his

the curtain, breaking the fourth wall to

nervousness, slinking out of something he’s

give the audience a terrified reaction. “That

said or done. He’s got flaws, and one ranking

feeling, that response… That exchange was

very high on the list is pride. So he gets his ego

awesome: I found something I’m good at.

wounded and he can’t let something go. Or the

For a while it was just, ‘I guess I’m good at

tension is too great and he can’t handle it all.”

crying a lot?’” Middleditch remains blown away by the And so, a comic was born. “Within a year,” he

opportunity, the success, and the unlikely

recalls, “the kids who were making fun of me

outcome that he’s now recognized for a

were my friends because I was now the class

style that he rarely brings to his live comedy.

clown.” And from middle school’s casual

“I’m usually the super-weird, absurd person.

cruelty came a community of fellow geeks.

Literally walking on like, ‘Hi, I’m a Talking

“As soon as you’re past that, you start finding

Pile of Shit!’3 That’s the standard. And it’s

your own people and testing who you are.”

not that Richard isn’t weird, but he’s more subdued. I totally love doing that, but it came

His mission statement going into his life’s

out of left field.”

testing phase: “I’ll fall on my face to make you laugh if it means you not pushing me on

The rest of the Silicon Valley crew is made up

my face to make you laugh.”

of standups and character actors with geek cred to spare: Zach Woods is Jared Dunn, the “mother hen,” as Middleditch puts it; T. J. Miller plays Erlich Bachman, the entrepreneur who

The region known as Silicon Valley has

constantly flirts with bankruptcy both moral

become

innovation

and financial; Freaks and Geeks fan-favorite

and risk-taking, so it’s fitting that the

Martin Starr is all grown up as deadpan engineer

eponymous HBO series set in the tech

Bertram

hotbed would feature a character we’ve

Middleditch’s longtime friend, is engineer

never quite seen before.

Dinesh Chugtai.

synonymous

with

Gilfoyle;

2 The I’m a Fool Kid: a Newsies-style old-timey Atlantic hustler. 3 The Talking Pile of Shit: extremely upbeat and aggressively friendly.

and

Kumail

Nanjiani,


50

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“It feels weird that it’s a rarity—a comedy

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2016,

show with actors who are [also] current

becoming just what he was nominated

working comedians,” Middleditch says.

for playing: a fresh, uneasy addition to a

“I’m not saying it’s a requirement. But

world of giant competitors. (The award

when you’re talking about comedy,

went to Jeffrey Tambor for Transparent.)

there’s a technical aspect. At a certain

“You spend all year not thinking about

point it’s like, ‘Cut the bullshit about how

it, and then you get thrust into thinking

everyone feels in the scene. What do we

about it,” he says of the experience. “You

need to hit? How can we punch it up? Let

look at the other nominees and you’re

me try five alts so I can maybe slide in a

like, ‘There’s no hope.’ But then people

funnier joke.’”

are like, ‘Maybe! Maybe you’re the dark horse!’ And now you’re emotionally

He’s been lauded for his convincing

invested. It’s such a roller coaster. It’s a

use of jargon and for the depth of his

constant sort of, ‘Eh? Don’t you think this

characterization and physicality. (“It’s a

is fun?’ And then they punch you in the

bit like a nerdy medical drama. ‘I need a

nuts. Like, ‘Isn’t it fun? On to the next

hundred CCs of gigabytes!’”4) Though

little obstacle you have to navigate!’”5

Middleditch is no tech slouch—stemming from his lifelong love of gaming and a

Richard’s struggles in season four are

background of hosting LAN parties—he

familiar to anyone who’s watched more

still defers to the experts. “The show has a

than a few minutes of the show. “His

ton of consultants. We mine a lot of people

whole promise in the first episode was to

from the Valley for stories and solutions.

do this differently. He’s [still] up against

Even in season one, at the end, when

the big players. How long can you survive

they’re talking about jacking off everyone

if you’re just playing nice the whole time?”

in the room?”—Silicon Valley is probably the only show on television to build a

So Middleditch once again uses humor

major plot point around theoretical bulk

to defeat bullies, albeit on a scripted

handjobs—“We had a Stanford professor

level, with Stanford-approved dick jokes

go through and check all that math to

and award-season bona fides. But in a

make sure it’s plausible and real. Because

twist worthy of his lightning-fast free

the Venn diagram of people who watch

associations, he now finds himself facing

our show and people who have access to

real-world bullies on a truly absurd scale,

the Internet is…nearly one circle.”

thanks to the combination of newfound fame and the access granted by actual

After three seasons of falling on his face

Silicon Valley tech. The United States is

to make us laugh, Middleditch received

a young enough nation to be the middle-

an Emmy nomination for Outstanding

schoolers of the globe, after all.

4 The Medical Drama Nerd: urgent and emphatic, but perhaps too nasally to take seriously. 5 The Hollywood Industry Type: smiling a little too wide as he flails, pops your personal bubble, and assaults your genitals.


After working through visa issues for

he admits that from what he wants

years and fighting to immigrate to the

to take in, “such a thin slice of that

States, Middleditch has occasionally run

pie is comedy.” Still, his geek flags are

afoul of the alt-right in America, often via

many and wave proudly: He’s a diehard

Twitter, but also in person. As Nanjiani

action movie nut, an armchair military

recently tweeted, the pair were accosted

historian with a recently acquired

at a Los Angeles bar. “There are plenty of

pilot’s license (“I’m now consummating

venomous terms being thrown around,”

my love affair with aviation”), a tireless

Middleditch says. “‘Cuck,’ ‘snowflake,’

gamer, and an Elliott Smith super-fan.

‘liberal tears,’ ‘libtard.’ They can’t wait to

He’s also a devoted environmentalist; in

bring up a victory over you, regardless of

a town bustling on the backs of those

what that means. People are like, ‘What’s

Silicon Valley conveniences Uber and

wrong with bullying? It makes a man

Lyft, Middleditch rides his bike to the

outta ya!’ I thought we were past that!”

photo shoot and enters with helmethair held high.

But Middleditch didn’t find his voice just to shelve it. “If we’re being truly

Having learned to make who he is an

honest with ourselves, you’ll see I’m not

asset, he’s turned even the loneliest years

100 percent kind all the time. Sometimes

of his life into sight gags to share with

my response is, ‘I don’t give a shit.’ I

fellow comedy nerds.

certainly don’t hold my tongue on thoughts about Ronald Drumpf.” (He

“I think any good comedic character has

sinks into his couch for an aside. “God,

to have a hidden sadness—some sort of

I bet he smells like mold.”) Meanwhile,

lingering deep depression or something

his method of undermining bullying

that can dismantle them at any moment,”

with humor still holds strong: “My go-to

he says. “What’s funny about someone

response on Twitter is, ‘Hey man, you

who’s super confident and invincible?

seem chill! Let’s hang out!’”

Unless they’re secretly not confident and totally…vincible.” He laughs. “That’s a good standup title. Thomas Middleditch: Extremely Vincible!”

As a self-made creative and a self-

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professed nerd, Thomas Middleditch

Good point, but you’d think working on a

is confident in who he is. Though he

show about the tech industry would teach

cites fellow Canadian expatriates Jim

you the importance of protecting a good

Carrey and Mike Myers as influences,

idea. You never know who might steal—

and particularly loves FX’s Baskets,

er, get inspired by it.


Rharha Nembhard and the Infinite Wave of Possibilities

By Josh Hurst Shot in South Africa for FLOOD by Kent Andreasen Styling by Kristi Vlok


the West—a comparison that always will see Africa falling short,” says the artist Rharha Nembhard. It’s something she’s seen firsthand, having been born

in the United Kingdom and raised in South Africa. And so, up against a stacked deck and a faulty paradigm—generations of built-in prejudice and pervading stereotypes—she decided to flip the script. Nembhard is the creative director for Yannick Ilunga, a musician who records under the name Petite Noir, whose forwardthinking music has won praise for how it blurs the lines between eras, cultures, and musical traditions, drawing as much from New Wave as from Afrobeat. They call the music noirwave— the color black representing, for Nembhard, “an infinite wave of possibilities”—but it’s not just a matter of genre or idiom. If anything, it’s about moving past those distinctions altogether. “The vision of noirwave was birthed out of frustration,” she says. “Petite Noir was tired of being boxed in to musical categories that didn’t represent the sound he was making, so he created his own. We took that frustration and applied it to a greater context, and it quite rapidly changed from just a genre to an aesthetic to a frame of mind—which then organically turned into a movement.” Key to the success of the movement is that it uses African culture as its point of origination, but not as its final destination—nor even as its primary subject matter. “We are not here to rewrite the African narrative but to create a new one that is akin to our experiences and frame of mind,” Nembhard explains. “The music and visuals...[are] simply a vehicle to communicate a larger message: Break free from any mold society created for you.”

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STILLS FROM “BEST” VIDEO CONCEPTUALIZED AND ART DIRECTED BY RHARHA NEMBHARD AND DIRECTED BY TRAVYS OWEN ADDITIONAL ARTWORK BY LINA VIKTOR IN COLLABORATION WITH RHARHA NEMBHARD AND PETITE NOIR

F

or centuries, Africa has been viewed in relation to


“ We a r e n o t h e r e t o rewrite the African narrative but to create a new one.” FLOOD

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Nembhard’s role is part stylist, part designer, and part curator. And though the music may have come first, it’s her distinct visual flair that serves as noirwave’s calling card. The vision and art direction for the Travys Owen–directed “Best” music video—which casts ancient and traditional African imagery in a colorful, futuristic context—came from Nembhard directly, and is arguably the most vivid iteration of the noirwave aesthetic. It’s a fitting evocation of what she calls “a global free-thinking movement with pan-African roots that pushes the boundaries of music, art, and culture.” Characterizing Nembhard and Ilunga’s movement in terms of its concrete or aesthetic traits is elusive, and in some sense noirwave is better understood in terms of how it breaks away from a vision of Africa that’s all kente cloth and stoic traditionalism. More than anything, Nembhard hopes noirwave will ignite a new sense of possibility within the culture— leading to a paradigm shift both in the West and, perhaps more crucially, within Africa itself. “We no longer need to look to the West for validation,” she affirms. “We no longer need to look outside of ourselves. The breadth and wealth of African culture is vast and has yet to be discovered by many Africans across the continent, much less the diaspora and the rest of the world.” Critically, she says, African culture cannot be boiled down to any one thing. “Just like the rest of the world, African culture has evolved and mutated. My hope is that my work will make people globally recognize that a new time is here—an unapologetic time.” And certainly, Nembhard is unapologetic in drawing a straight line from the current mode of populist fearmongering to the value of noirwave. “It’s a direct response to the current political climate in the West, which feels the need to control or limit people that do not fit the status quo,” she says. “What’s happening in America or Europe is nothing new; it’s what’s been happening for centuries in Africa. The West is now waking up to itself and it’s not a pretty sight. But the shock is gone for so many of us. Now it’s time for solutions.”

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FLOOD 6 SIDE B  
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