Fourculture issue 15

Page 1



New York City, in Movement The Photography of









Felicia C. Waters SUBMISSIONS


Rene Trejo, Jr. EDITORIAL

Christine Blythe Serena Butler Frank Cotolo Kathy Creighton Paul Davies Paula Frank Marguerite O’Connell Derek O’Neal Mark Sharpley Annie Shove Darya Teesewell Felicia C. Waters


© 2012-2014 Fourculture Magazine Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 2 | ISSUE FIFTEEN


an you imagine how lonely I would be without my Fourculture family? I was thinking about that today. Where would I be if I didn’t get to check my email and have it filled with the radical thoughts from my fellow underground artists? How bland it would be to exist as a singular artist flaunting my works among the 21st century. There’s a certain nature of art and the Internet these days that makes it an island for each of us. If we are not connected with our kindred spirits then we would be alone. A bunch of lone creators floating on their individual islands making art for no one to appreciate. This world is not like it used to be. To plug in and connect is not easy among these easily connectable interwebs that have been woven. The more connected the people have gotten, the more disconnected the freaks and geeks of the underground have been torn asunder I would have died in one way or another. Many years ago I would have wasted away to nimble bones and pigment if I had not reached out to grasp the hands of my artistic compatriots. I play the keyboard like Mozart played the piano, but it would not connect me until I found the subtext of the ether. Someone said friends are important. While I think it depends on the kind of friends, I can agree that human contact with like-minded people is very important. When you’re a person like me, like-minded is hard to come by. Fourculture Magazine is the connection and the palette of fabulous colors now used by many to feel one with many others. It’s a sadness I cannot yet explain if an artist of the true underground still lives in singular silence. The way of the future is connection. It’s not the connection they’ve been telling you, but it’s the connection we’ve found interwoven within these webs that represent a technological weave. The artists around this world need a connection and that connection is getting harder to attain. Within these pages you can find the art, literature, music and visions that boils on the underground. The intent is to stir it just enough to keep a nice roll without peaking too far above into normal realms. The underground likes flirting with the above ground just enough to tempt some radicals to come our way. May it burn a hole for those who need it. May it overcome the three hundred and sixty, every holiday, ever family reunion and each individual tasteless glamourless wont. May art prevail. May the underground remain underground and yet influence that of which walks in the sunlight. The bland society-driven sunlight.

Follow The Artist D: @theArtistD

get connected to fourculture


features Clockwork Radio................ 6 My Pet Skeleton.................14 Yoshiki.............................. 26 Mat Divine........................ 34 Kris Allen.......................... 46 Jay B. Wilson.................... 56 Wrabel.............................. 70 Captain Capa....................74

regulars August Z. Drenna............. 43 Frank Cotolo..................... 44 Adam D............................ 82 Darya Teesewell............... 86


| 5

Manchester’s CLOCKWORK RADIO Opens A Dramatic New Chapter BY DER EK O’NE A L

Clockwork Radio is an alternative rock band from Wales, now based in Manchester. They have toured extensively around Europe alongside such acts as The Prodigy, The Hives, and Bombay Bicycle Club. Their engagement with the audience and their intense live presence have become cornerstones of the band's live performance — “When you're on tour, you soon realise how important the groove and the melody is, and how it connects people. You can't fake that, and the songs have to be honest otherwise people switch off. It's the human side of it that draws people in because they know it's real.” The band began in 2007 in rural Wales as a side-project of lead singer and guitarist Rich Williams. The current line-up consists of Rich Williams on lead vocals and guitar, Iwan Jones on lead guitar and vocals, Sam Quinn on bass and keys, and Dan Wiebe on percussion and vocals. Sculpting their own brand of alternative rock whilst on the road, the band self-released 4 EPs over a two year period. In September, they self-released their debut album, No Man Is An Island, on Poly Tune Records. The album was recorded in December 2013 over two days at 80 Hertz Studios in Manchester. According to Rich Williams, “The idea for the album was to have a live, raw and honest record of where we are as a band. It seemed out of place and quite strange to record like this considering how most music is recorded and sounds recently, but to us it’s what makes music special and honest.”


What is the significance behind the band’s name, Clockwork Radio? It developed out of a few name ideas and then we kind of stuck on Clockwork Radio because of the ideas behind the invention and what it represents...getting messages and music out to people who would otherwise not have access to it. How did you guys come together as a band? Well, Rich and Iwan were working on music together back in Wales and trying to book shows, sending out demos and managed to get a bit of airplay on Radio 1 and Radio Wales. They then decided to move to Manchester so that they could get a band together to play some of their early work. After a period of trying out different musicians, the band met Dan and Sam through a mutual friend. From there we started touring and recording together. Since then we haven't stopped. What is your ideal songwriting environment? How does a Clockwork Radio song come about? Can you tell us about your creative process? Every song is totally different and we're always trying to find new ways of coming up with new ideas so there has never been a set formula for it. One song on the album, “Sitting Bull”, took about a year and a half to finish wheress “Rain” and “Fever” came together in about 2 or 3 weeks — all in completely different ways and by experimenting a lot with loop pedals, recording software and just jamming on ideas. We all then chip in on each others ideas and try to make each one as good as it can be. Your debut full-length album, No Man Is An Island, was recorded over two days at 80 Hertz Studios in Manchester. What was it like recording an album in two days? It was the best recording experience we've had so far. Having such a tight time restraint meant we had to made quick decisions and put everything into each take. Also playing in the amazing live room there and getting to feed of each other instead of layering everything separately gives it a much more human feel. We'd spent a lot of time on the previous EPs trying to perfect things and you slowly lose the energy for the song that way. We tried to go as far away from that as we could and kept all the imperfections, which I think added to it more than anything.


| 11

Who are some of your musical influences? Who are you listening to now? A lot of local people from Manchester at the moment — Gymnast, Edwin Miles, Traveling Band, Jonny Woodhead, Suburban Sons, Lee Parry. There as so many great bands and musicians in just one city. It's impossible to list them. You can go out any night of the week and watch someone great. It's crazy at the moment. Outside of that, we listen to a lot of Jack White, Kristian Harting, Tame Impala, FKA Twigs. What is everyone’s favorite song from No Man Is An Island and why? Rich: “The Balance of Water” for me is my favourite off the album. Lyrically, I think it's one of the best we've done. For me, it can be interpreted in so many ways, and it's so chilled out and also has the Rhodes on it which just sounds amazing on that recording. Dan: “Feel It Up”. It’s got a big chorus and great vocal delivery. Very jacko. Really nice feel to play live and love the inventive guitar parts that complement the verse vocal wonderfully Sam: “Rain.” For me, it's a really strong song that builds throughout the song, from the initial drum groove to the outro solo. Iwan: “Tacenda”. Of all the album’s songs, this is the one with the greatest juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics. The funky music complemented by the heavy lyrics make for an interesting song.

What is it like touring as a band? What have been your favorite stops along the way? I think most of the shows leave you with some good memories. You can always take something different away from them. However, the first show we ever played in Paris was really amazing. The place was packed, everyone was into the music and we had the best time in the city. We also played a small acoustic show at a tiny bar called Face Bar a couple of years later there, and that was really amazing because the place had this really cool atmosphere and the crowd and venue You guys just released the music video owner were so great with us. for your song, “Sitting Bull.” Do you have plans to create any more music What would you consider the highlight of your musical career so far? videos for your album? I think releasing the album on our own Yeah, we hope to make videos for most of the songs on the album actually. It's such label and getting it pressed on vinyl has an important part of music now but it's also been a special thing for us all. There are so a lot of fun to try and visualize your songs. many memories of touring and recording, it's all one big highlight. What is a Clockwork Radio performance like? What can fans expect at a show? If you could pick one thing for ClockThere's a lot of energy and it's quite raw work Radio to achieve in the future, what and we try to interact with the audience as would that thing be? To figure out how we and other indemuch as possible, really. I think the most important part about playing live is not to pendent bands can start to make an impact just go out and play the songs as you would nationally and across the globe with airplay in rehearsals but to work with the crowd and and be able to survive off making and playing music. It’s pretty tough for create some cool moments. Looking to future shows, we're going to everyone right now. try and bring in a lot of visuals and really make it a show.

In 2011, Clockwork Radio created an interactive 360-degree music video for the song “Please You.” Describe what it was like making the video. It was strange because it was something that was only just coming out. We had no idea really how to put it together. It was just a big experiment, but at the time a lot of people couldn’t get their head around how you could move around a video, which was great. We're going to be working on a lot more things like it pretty soon, lots of ideas with projections and new technologies. 12 || ISSUE ISSUEFIFTEEN FIFTEEN


| 13

The visions and dreams of‌ MY PET SKELETON BY PAUL A FR A NK

Enter a world where print meets paint, dreams meet life, and beauty is found in the darkest of shadows. This is the world of artist Vincent Marcone, known as My Pet Skeleton. Vincent’s work as a graphic artist has not only garnered him major album covers and several awards, but has led to film work and become the imagery behind his band Johnny Hollow. His dark visions and interesting methods show us what lies in the recesses of our subconscious, what lurks in the corners of our fears, and incorporates the possibilities of what could be if we would just dare to reach. Do you dare?

Music and art go hand in hand for you. When working on a new piece, do you find the tone of the piece changes with what you are listening to while creating it? Who are your favorites to listen to when you’re working? This is a great question. Before I start a piece I usually have the composition already in place within my mind’s eye. As I’m putting all of the elements together which make up the foundation for the piece, I avoid listening to music. Once all of that is in place, I know what kind of mood I’m looking for and I’ll select a specific album, or even curate a specific soundtrack to encourage the chosen mood as I add colour, texture and sculpt new details into the composition. If I’m painting an album cover for a band, I’ll listen to their music on repeat. This is why it’s important for me to artistically connect with the band before I take on a commission. When I’m doing my own work I typically listen to Dead Can Dance, Portishead, Massive Attack, Tricky, Lamb, Air, Goldfrapp, Hybrid, Recoil, NIN, Bauhaus, The xx, Morcheeba, Depeche Mode to name just a few off the top of my head. What’s a day like in the studio? Are you an “aware” artist who can maintain a time clock of sorts or do you forget to eat for 3 days at a time? It really depends on the day. Some days, I’m pacing in my loft trying to connect with an image in my own head. It’s awful when it doesn’t come easily. When the image does appear inside my head, the flood gates are open and it’s just a matter of figuring out what media I need to use to create the image. It’s a puzzle. Should I paint? Should I photograph a subject? Should I sketch it out? Usually it’s some combination of the 3. I can definitely forget to eat when I’m in a zone. You’ve done many different album covers. How do you go about translating someone else’s music into that one iconic image that will grace their cover? Which has been your toughest cover to get just right? I listen to the music, I read the band’s lyrics and then I just dream up some concepts. It’s kind of a meditative approach. The basic image appears in my head be-

fore I put pen to paper. It’s a fun puzzle for me. I’ll ask myself; what images can I use to communicate the band’s voice? What visual moment can I conjure to represent the themes within their album? I have to say that the toughest covers are the ones I’ve done for my own band, Johnny Hollow. I end up feeling a lot of pressure to represent our music and our words with the right picture. I guess it’s because I’m too close to the music and to the words. It leaves me with a little stage fright. I should add, this pressure is completely manufactured by my own shadow. My bandmates are very supportive and basically just wait for me to come up with something. You bring so many different types of media together to create your art, not the least of which being old world style print, which is rather unusual in art these days. How do you go about mixing things such as print with digital media? I did a lot of intaglio print making years ago, and so I have an extensive library of textures and lines that I’m constantly incorporating into my work. I really feel that the process of print making is the first version of “photoshop”. I think this is why my work is a little different from many graphic artists. I try to take my queues from old masters of etching and I use many of their techniques both physically and digitally when I go about creating an image. As a result, my digital work tends to not have that polished plastic ‘plug-in’ kind of feel. My pictures tend to look scratched and beaten by the time I’ve sent them through the computer. Your artwork shows us the beauty that can be found in things rather dark and macabre. Have you always seen that beautiful side of darkness? Where does that come from? First off, thank you. That is a wonderful compliment and it’s definitely one of the things I’ve tried to accomplish in my work. Painting a pretty flower or babbling brook on a sunny landscape is not very interesting. Conversely, creating an image depicting blood, horror, and evil is just as stale to me. It’s the ‘in-between’ that’s always captivated me. Nothing is completely black nor white and there is beauty in that realization. The ‘in-between’ coupled with some sort

“I try to take my queues from old masters of etching and I use many of their techniques both physically and digitally when I go about creating an image.” ISSUE FIFTEEN

| 17


of subtle narrative is often at the centre of my work. I don’t know where that fascination comes from. I’ve always had it, even as a child. I don’t think my perspective is rare though, I think there are many people who go through life with the same pair of eyes. We are just quieter about what we see. There is a depth of emotion in your work that is just incredible. It’s like feeling something you didn’t even really know you needed to feel until it’s there, and maybe it hurts a bit, but it’s amazing at the same time. What does creating your work give to you emotionally? Again, thank you for such a wonderful compliment. If I were to be honest, I guess I’m constantly fighting apathetic notions and feelings. It’s so easy to fall into that grey haze. When I create an image, I’m forced to shake away those feelings and find a new perspective to see from. It’s from there that I find pictures to compose. I kind of feel like a kid again when I’m working. I guess I love that feeling because the world is clearer. You’re a fellow believer in dream journaling and the collective unconscious. What effects do dreaming and that connection to the universal have on your work or even on yourself as a being? When I wake up in the morning, I’ll often write down and describe landscapes, colours, characters, circumstances, and anything that I can manage to remember into a journal, before drifting back to sleep. I feel that doing this a few times a week keeps me connected to a visual language that isn’t available to the parts of my brain that I use when I’m awake. When I’m composing an image, I’ll often borrow some of this imagery that fits into the mood of the composition. I’ve often heard from people that they feel they aren’t sure why they feel connected to a specific picture. I think it’s because they’ve had similar dreams that they don’t quite remember.

an artist or a musician, though I deeply rely on both to tell my stories, so going into film felt like a natural progression for me. Lady ParaNorma is an incredible short film work, narrated by Peter Murphy. You have now been working on getting the Lady ParaNorma character into book form. How is the process going? I’m loving the results, but it has taken a lot longer than I anticipated. I really look forward to showing it off. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I hope this will be the first of many books to come. You’ve used Kickstarter very successfully with your band, Johnny Hollow. Will you be returning to crowdsourcing for the book? Do you have a timeline going for release yet? What else is coming up for My Pet Skeleton? I will definitely be crowdsourcing again, and when I do, I’ll definitely reach out to fourculture! I have a few fun ideas in mind, but I need to focus on completing my book first. The Lady ParaNorma has a wonderful publisher with Chizine Publications so crowdsourcing won’t be needed for this project in particular. I’m working on a new site to feature my latest work. So that should be up before the year ends.

What is the last truly meaningful thing you read? I recently watched, for the first time, a director’s cut of the 1973 film “The Wickerman”. I was caught off guard by one song within the film called “Willow’s Song” and it has haunted me ever since. I recently learned that this song has been covered by many bands, but my favourite version lies in the hands of The Sneakerpimps. This stanza has stayed with me for some reason or another... Heigh ho! Who is there? No one but me, my dear. Please come say, How do? The things I’ll give to you. You’ve gotten to do some great film By stroke as gentle as a feather work as well. How challenging was the I’ll catch a rainbow from the sky leap into film? And tie the ends together. ~Paul Giovanni It can be challenging because a film requires so much attention and work. But there is also an amazing sense of freedom What are four things you simply cannot in playing with moving pictures. I love doing live without? it, but I only do a short film once every year (or My eyes, my tongue and my ears along less) because it is so time consuming. I think, with all my organs as the gears. at my core, I’m more of a storyteller than I am ISSUE FIFTEEN

| 25





BY M A RGUER ITE O’CO NNELL PH OTOG R A PH Y BY I VA N KO KOULI N w w w.i va n - kokoulin.c o m


oshiki Hayashi, known simply as Yoshiki to his legion of fans around the world, is an international rock super-star. He is also a classically trained pianist of world-renown, producer, composer, and businessman. As co-founder, drummer, and pianist for X Japan, he is a member of one of the most influential rock bands in Japanese history. X Japan have sold over thirty million singles and albums combined, and filled the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome a record-breaking eighteen times. And just last month X Japan passed another huge career milestone when the band played a packed show at Madison Square Garden. Floor tickets for the October 11th show were sold out within an hour of going on sale. It was the first time the band brought their complete stage show to the U.S. and the three-hour concert extravaganza received enthusiastic reviews from fans and critics, alike. Last year the seemingly indefatigable Yoshiki also released a critically acclaimed classical album, Yoshiki Classical. Yoshiki composed every piece on Classical, including The Golden Globe Theme (composed for the 69th Golden Globe Awards), “I’ll Be Your Love” (the theme song for World Expo Japan), and “Anniversary” (a piano concerto composed to honor the tenth year of the Emperor of Japan’s reign). When it came time to record the album, Yoshiki enlisted legendary Beatles producer Sir George Martin, as well as the talent of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tokyo City Philharmonic, and the Quartet San Francisco. The album debuted at #1 on the iTunes Classical Music chart in ten countries and in the “Top 10” in four more. Wanting to bring the beauty of classical music to rock and pop audiences world-wide, he undertook the Yoshiki Classical World Tour. Expertly mixing piano concertos with classical renditions of X Japan rock songs, Yoshiki held attendees spellbound — and had some fans singing along. That Yoshiki successfully bridged the gap between the two genres of music was evident at each stop on the tour, as bluehaired rock fans and classical music at-

tendees happily sat side by side to hear him play. It was also evident at the end of shows when some audience members rose to give a standing ovation while others rushed the stage, screaming and taking photos. Whether he’s on-stage alone playing classical pieces or drumming with X Japan, every Yoshiki performance is part classical concert, part rock show, and part pure theater; each element delivered with the technical perfection, passion, and exacting level of showmanship demanded by the consummate performer. But his influence is not limited only to the world of music. Yoshiki is also a well known figure in pop culture. In fact during their earliest days, X Japan attracted as much attention for their appearance as for their sound. And their flamboyant outfits, elaborate hairstyles, and androgynous make-up helped to propel the Japanese cultural and musical movement known as “Visual-Kei” into a wildly popular social phenomenon. With their aesthetic embracing both futuristic and historical imagery, X Japan’s style is recognized for its immense influence on the anime and cosplay cultures. And Yoshiki’s superstar status and influence only continue to expand. Just a few of the projects to which his name is attached include Blood Red Dragon, the superhero comic book series that Marvel Comic legend, Stan Lee created based on Yoshiki; a Madame Tussaud wax figure; a clothing and jewelry line; a Yoshiki branded Visa and Mastercard; a small line of California wines, “Y by Yoshiki”; special edition YOSHIKI headphones; and the first ever Hello Kitty product line named after an individual – “Yoshikitty.” He also established the Yoshiki Foundation America, a project that is very close to his heart. When Yoshiki was ten years old his father committed suicide and it was in music that he found solace from his grief. Today his Foundation works to support children in unfortunate and tragic situations through music. A gifted artist, a complex man, and a huge international celebrity, Yoshiki took time from his international travels to answer some questions from Fourculture.


I want to ask you a little bit about your background so readers of Fourculture Magazine can get to know more about you and how you became one of the most well-known and influential artists in Asia. For instance, tell me about growing up in a small town in Japan; when and why you moved to Tokyo; what instruments you play besides the piano and drums; and if you ever studied music – writing, playing, theory or orchestration - in school? I started playing the piano at the age of four. When I was ten years old, I started playing drums. Then Toshi and I moved to Tokyo when we were eighteen. Other instruments I played were the trumpet for five years and I also played guitar. I was about to go to Music College majoring in piano and composition. I was offered a scholarship to attend, but then Toshi, who is the vocalist, and myself decided to pursue our rock band career instead. In the past you have talked about your Dad’s death when you were ten years old, and how rock music helped you to survive that loss. Had you only played classical music on the piano before his death? What did your family think when you started listening to rock music and wanting to play drums and guitar? I had only played classical music in my early youth. Then when my dad died I was very angry and depressed. This was right around the time I started listening to Rock. Then the combination of Classical Music and Rock music really supported me emotionally. My mother was the one to actually buy me a drum set. I was crying every day when my father died, so long as I wasn’t crying, she was happy with whatever I was doing. Of course, when I was playing the

drums at midnight or 1:00 AM, she might have been a little upset. What artists or albums had a significant impact on you and your developing musical tastes? So many artists influenced my musical tastes. Bands like Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Sex Pistols, David Bowie, The Doors, Deep Purple, Bauhaus, and a lot of other punk rock bands. I’ve read that your first band gig was at a Middle School festival. How long after that first gig did you start X Japan? How did you meet the other members of the band and why did you originally choose to name the band X? The band was originally called X. We started X at the age of fifteen and the band eventually became X Japan. I met vocalist Toshi when we were four years old, then I met the guitar player PATA at the age of eighteen, and when I was nineteen I met Taiji and Hide. I met Sugizo, the newest member, when I was twenty-one but it wasn’t until recently that he joined the band. Heath and I met in our late twenties. I chose to name the band “X” because I thought it was a really simple name. It represents to me the idea of no limitations. People have a hard time describing music, so I thought X was the perfect name. X Japan is as well known for the popularization of ‘visual kei’ or ‘visual style’ — the cultural and musical movement characterized by flamboyant outfits, elaborate hairstyles and heavy make-up — as for your groundbreaking sound. What was the inspiration for this style and why did the band choose to adopt it? What affect did the band’s early aesthetic have on your ability to promote the band’s music? ISSUE FIFTEEN

| 31


We were just rebelling against everything, against all that was considered conventional. The makeup had different influences from Kabuki to David Bowie. Our aesthetic actually worked against us in promoting our music. Some people didn’t want to listen to us because of our rebellion. On the other hand, we gained other fans because of their interest in our unique style. Why did you decide to record classical albums as a solo artist while a member of Japan’s biggest rock band? What was it like to work with George Martin on your first original solo album, Eternal Melody and again on your most recent release, Yoshiki Classical? After I composed for the Golden Globes, I was approached by a record company, who wanted me to create a complication of my classical works. Working with George Martin was phenomenal by all accounts.

have to look at voicing for every single second the music flows. A lot of times, when I produce a band, they have a hard time with voicing issues. They just think about their individual part a lot of the time. The combination of bass guitar strings, vocals etc. –all those lines with voicing are very important. So learning classical music helps them understand their part better, and learning classical music helps any genre of music.

Tell me about the motivation behind your starting Yoshiki Foundation America. What are some of the projects the foundation has undertaken? Have any projects incorporated your interest in music therapy? Because I lost my father when I was ten years old, I was a really depressed kid. I grew up with pain and I kind of know some children’s pain, so I wanted to support them and I wanted to give them hope. So that’s the main reason I stared my own foundation. Then I supported other foundations such as the Make A Wish Foundation, as well as The Grammy Foundation. I’m working again on a charity auction for the Grammy Foundation. Its not going to be a temporary thing, I’m going to be doing this throughout my life, at my own pace. This is giving my life purpose.

How is your mental and/or physical preparation different for a performance as a classical soloist than for a performance as a rock star? What routines, if any, stay the same no matter the type of music you perform? Mentally it’s the same. Physically for classical piano, I play Hanon from beginning to the end, for about an hour-long practice. For drums I do a very basic warm up, double base BPM from 60-200. Considering all the factors of a musical performance — such as the venue, audience members, and the elements of your show — do you prefer to perform classical or rock music? Both. I can express my aggressive side with Rock and my softer side through Classical Music. Tell me about your song-writing process. From where do you draw inspiration? Do you have a favorite location, or favorite instrument to work on, when composing? How has your classical training informed and influenced your rock compositions? When I compose music I don’t use any instruments, I use only a score sheet. I can pretty much write music anywhere. These days I’ve been traveling a lot, so I’ve been writing music on the airplane. The Hello Kitty theme song I just recently composed – I wrote it entirely on the airplane. Classical training helps every single genre of music because regardless we

ally enjoy communicating with my fans. Sometimes I will listen to my fans about a lot of things. Basically I’m pretty confident about what I do. Some artists may be really really influenced by their fans, and I think that’s good too, but sometimes you need to have more confidence with what you’re doing. Because when I create music it’s a very sacred moment. Even my ego cannot affect that. So social media is great but at the same time when I create music I use only my instincts and my feelings. Of course I listen to some people’s advice but I don’t want it to affect my music creation process.

Has the growth of your fan base into a worldwide audience of both classical and rock music fans affected your creative process? In other words, does the language, culture, preference, or size of the audience influence not only what music you compose, but how you compose it? Yes. As I started writing lyrics in English more and more I came up with an image of me performing in front of an audience not only in Japan but outside of Japan as well. But regardless I always focus on that sort of thing from the get go, because music has no boundaries. Especially with my career it’s all about breaking through any rules or boundaries. How do you think the development of social media and technology has affected the music industry and the way artists promote themselves? I use social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus, you name it. I re-

What music/artists are you listening to today; who are the artists and music on your favorites playlist? I still listen to classical music. I love Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff. Other than that I listen to David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, The Doors, Metallica, Slipknot, Calvin Harris, Muse… pretty much everything. What can we expect from you in the coming year? X Japan will be going on a World Tour. We are currently filming a feature film documentary about the band to be released next year. Finally, Fourculture wants to know: What are your four favorite things – the four things you couldn’t (or just don’t want to) live without? I couldn’t live without music. I don’t need to eat, I don’t need to sleep. All I need is music. So, my four favorite things are music, music, music, and music. ISSUE FIFTEEN

| 33



| 35

Mat Devine, best known as the frontman for the Chicago alt rock band Kill Hannah, is currently building a new fanbase for his latest project, Wrongchilde. However, music is far from the only medium he creates in. When asked about all the ways he expresses himself creatively, he responded “I have enjoyed and semi-failed at every art discipline there is. I love fucking with clothes, I have my t-shirt line — Animal Royalty, I studied fashion illustration and loved that and I enjoy writing fiction and op-ed pieces.”


e also spoke about the arts he is not so enamored with. “I hate performance art. I hate sculpture and can’t paint to save my life.” With a mother who was a teacher, as well as an artistic family, Devine has always been encouraged and supported in all his artistic and intellectual endeavors. He is one of the very few rock musicians who are on the higher end of secondary education. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the Chicago Art Institute, he maintains an impressive collection of books and instruments and lives by the belief that there are two things that should not remained closed for long...a book and a piano. When the person being interviewed is a longtime acquaintance, many of the background colors are already on the canvas. While there was an awareness of some of the arts that Mat indulges in when he needs to purge or recharge, (Devine is a fan of architecture, especially interiors of old buildings) the rest of his answers provided new understanding and insight. He did begin with his love of buildings though. “Chicago is a mecca for high-rises. It is the birthplace of skyscrapers. If you’re looking for inspiration just look up.” He moves on to interiors, “I love forgotten things. One of my favorite blogs is ‘Mansions Of The Gilded Age’. It’s all about these forgotten manor houses around the U.S.” “I don’t seek out arts intentionally,” he adds. “I don’t go ‘it’s time to write a song, let’s go to the museum and look at some paintings.’ The way that I’m moved by music is the same way I am moved by other things.” Then came the first moment that Mat went deeper into a train of thought. “This is going to sound cheesy but the last time I went to Paris, I went to the Monet exhibit alone and was crippled by emotion. It was not that the blurry water lilies were beautiful to look at but in terms of human empathy,


here was this dude, going blind making this and here we are so many years later, in the age of technology, where we can just about put someone on Mars and just the colors this guy had in the light of France can still move people so long after he was dead. I think about that stuff. I wonder if he would have any clue that people would be lining up to pay 10 Euros each to just stare at what he made. That’s what moved me. “ Mat was the inspiration for the first two of my signature “three questions”. He is also the person to start me down the rabbit hole that has led to arts journalism. About two years into our acquaintance, the discovery of Devine’s photography and film work came to light. Earlier, thanks to links posted by other fans, hours were spent poring over a blog Mat kept on the Kill Hannah section of Atlantic Records website. There my love of his other writings was born. Mat later created and hosted Racoon Society which was a blog and community site. Today Mat is a contributor to Thought Catalog. The thing that still fuels my love for his writings is Devine’s dry and sometimes slightly dark sense of humor. In the interview we agreed that sarcasm, at least our brand of it, is definitely a Connecticut/New York thing. Keeping the subject of sarcasm going, it also came up in Mat’s answer to the “what art do you suck at that you wish you didn’t?” question. For him, it is the art of human communication. Devine waxed poetic about the fact that he has very little filter and when put in the right (or wrong) conversational position he will just say things. “I am the most awkward dude on Earth. I don’t know when the fuck to shut up and I am just so transparent. I see my life in the third person, like I’m looking down from an angle. It’s like a movie that is sometimes hilarious and other times dark and avant-garde. At my own peril I will say things that just derail a conversation but that make me laugh inside. Whether or not it’s over people’s heads doesn’t matter,

it’s just inappropriate. It’s super dry, maybe because I was raised in a family with a really sarcastic sense of humor?” As previously mentioned Devine is usually associated with Chicago. However, he was born in Norwalk, Connecticut. He also lived for a brief time in Nyack, New York. How did those physical locations affect his creativity? “The fact that we were a train ride away from Manhattan was nice and the fact that my mom put an emphasis on art. Norwalk wasn’t known for art. Nyack wasn’t known for art. But these areas provided a safe and protected environment. It was easy to stand out. If I came to school with purple hair, I was one out of many yet I would stand out and it was fun and bizarre. Art teachers were very encouraging.” So why did he stay in the Windy City? Why didn’t he come back to New York City for college? “I was in love with the Chicago Art Institute. Then we started Kill Hannah. Every day was like a mid-life crisis. I was ‘fuck! I don’t want to turn 20. Oh fuck! I don’t want to turn 21.’ I felt like any day we’d get a record deal and start touring. So I didn’t think ‘hunker down and stay in Chicago another 15 years.’ That’s where our roots were, that’s where our friends were and that was where the band’s identity was formed. It was never a consideration to come back to the Northeast even though it was this...” Here was where Mat began to confirm something I’d felt for a long time. His heart may be in Chicago but his very soul is in the New York metro area. His answer took a 180. “Wow! You just jogged a memory. I remember in Chicago, the headaches I would get trying to adjust my references and conversations to match the tone of Chicago. In New York I felt freer to drop references, cultural references. Not to sound snobby at all but you just operate on a different frequency out here.”, we were sitting in a small playground on the Lower East Side of Manhattan for this part of the interview. “In Chicago it was a physical thing. You come down to earth. Then you find the remarkable people in that city. I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to come back to New York and would every chance I got. Then we started touring and coming through New York and I’d be counting the days till we got here. Then it would be a miracle that we survived it because we were so excited and we’d go so hard here. Our favorite places and people. When I moved back here a few years ago, the second I landed...I was leaving a very enviable life in Chicago. It was our home. We were so proud of it and had it so dialed-in – big fish/small pond kind of thing. But the second I landed there wasn’t a moment of regret. My shoulders relaxed.


| 37


I was back among the people and things that turn me on.” Prompted by recent experiences and conversations with people from New York and Los Angeles, where does Chicago fit in the artist nation? Is it another ‘island’ like Boston? Sometimes it feels like the crown jewel of the U.S. Midwest is a bit like New Jersey but with more kerosene and livestock blood in its veins. Devine gave this observation, “Chicago operates under New York and L.A. Chicago is real people... straight up...normal as we call it. Chicago is family oriented, conservative, Midwestern at its core. If you’re not married by the time you’re 25, you feel like you owe someone an explanation. There are always wedding showers and girls saying ‘Hey, look at my engagement ring.’ People have learned how to be content with less. On one hand it is the greatest form of Taosism... ‘Look at all you have’, not ‘why are you even reaching for more? You’ve got a C+ lifestyle, why even try to get an A?’ You always have drinking buddies. You can always find a nice steak and people chat on a real level.” “There are crazy people and there are inspiring, enlightened people of course,” he continues. “But by and large the more ambitious people from Chicago eventually take off to New York or L.A. The identities New York and L.A. have right now, I have found, exist for a reason. Of course there are exceptions and we live among the exceptions.” Speaking of his move to Los Angeles in the not-so-distant past, Mat explains, “I’ve learned there are reasons why people believe that Los Angelans are shallow. There’s a reason why they think people there are crazy, maybe a little uncultured. Straight up, they believe in astrology in L.A….with no irony whatsoever. The majority of people there have escaped fuckedup towns and fucked-up family situations so there’s a lot of baggage. New York on the whole is...these people are more college educated, more entrepreneurial, a little more diversified, a little more cultured, a little more international, a little more travelled and a little more book savvy. Chicago sits beneath that being super stable. It’s a rock. L.A. could rise and fall or burn to the ground and Chicago would always be there. It’s about sports. It’s about athletics. It holds a prominent place on the map of culinary arts and architecture. In terms of music and entertainment, that’s more L.A.” Coming full circle among the sounds of construction equipment and sirens, Devine comes down to the bottom line of where home truly is. “I just know that I belong in New York. When I landed here for this trip I was so geeked about showing off what I know about New York to our bass player Jeffrey (a native Californian). He said ‘Does being here make you miss living here?’

Completely undiplomatically, I immediately responded ‘FUCK YEAH!’ No hesitation. I didn’t qualify it with ‘You know there is...’ My mouth moved before I could even filter it. We were still in the cab coming from the airport.” Mat does admit that there is a downside to The Big Apple. “New York does have a way of pushing people away though too. It’s financially impossible to maintain a decent lifestyle here. You have people who are worth a million dollars living the dorm-room lifestyle, living with leaky ceilings and mold. The bed bug thing is really hard to wrap my head around. I feel like right now that the bed bug thing is like dating the hottest, coolest, funniest girl in the world who just happens to have some bizarre rash. You’re like ‘I should be able to look past this but...I can’t.’” In researching another part of this feature, this jewel popped up which gives even more of Mat’s feelings about NY vs. L.A. In a sidetrack about finding interesting creative people no matter where one travels, Devine mentioned a trip he made to Joshua Tree. “It was that salt and sea, off the grid lifestyle away from L.A. And I met some of the most fascinating people who chose to live there.” Would he ever consider taking the leap to Burning Man? “I wouldn’t go to Burning Man because I’m not 18.” Comparing both our fair complexions as another reason not to experience the festival Mat noted that “direct sunlight is like the Nickelback of elements.” Later in our discussion about pop music he changed that analogy to Pharell. Devine moved to Los Angeles from Manhattan after his stint on Broadway in “Spiderman”. This was a bit of a fish-outof-water experience for Mat and co-star, Reeve Carney. Both came from the rock world not the theater world. The next question was about that chapter. Broadway can be NY at its best and worst. Other than the West End there’s no other theater area like it with singers, actors and dancers vying for very few roles. One has to hone one’s craft into a tiny razor sharp niche. Devine came in with none of that. He was a bit of a broadsword in a box full of katanas and Ginsu knives. What was the best and the worst that he came away from that experience with? Would he do it again? “The best thing about that experience was that it was the first time I could focus on my voice - I got to see doctors, speech therapists, vocal coaches, etc. I changed my diet, my lifestyle, took a daily series of pills, oils, steam, nasal sprays, exercises, etc. and learned so much. Turns out wine and pizza at 2AM every night on tour wasn’t the perfect recipe for healthy vocal chords.” He never mentioned any of the negatives or if he’d give it another chance. An old friend of Devine’s, Jared Leto has also worn both the rockstar and actor hats

and recently achieved the goal of the highest award in the film world. I couldn’t resist asking Mat about his trying his hand a film and possibly giving Jared some competition for an Oscar. Using the example of one of his favorite movies, “American Psycho”, the challenge was offered. Perfectly timed, Devine chooses the answer to this question to show off that aforementioned sense of humor. “They’re re-making “American Psycho”? Is that true? I’m freaking out. I’d literally chop your head off right now to get a part in that.” Before moving to the present I posed two more questions about the past...things that are part of the foundation of Mat’s overall career and his latest venture in particular. The first was about a very special event in the history of Kill Hannah. The outing with their idols, The Smashing Pumpkins, shines as the pinnacle of the band’s life. The final night of that tour was on both band’s home stage, The Metro, and was a benefit for a fellow Chicagoan, Matthew Leoni of Madina Lake. “Yeah that was definitely a career highlight...singing “1979” with Billy on stage in our home-town. Being a Chicago-based band, there’s no greater local heroes than the Pumpkins.” The other question was about the person who is the cornerstone of Mat’s being and the subject of our very first conversation — his grandmother. He’s even written a song honoring her, “My Grandma’s Sad Eyes”. “My grandma is the matriarch of our family. Super funny and cool- she’s 94 and has martinis at noon with her friends at the country club — that sort of old school Connecticut vibe. Her husband used to croon — stand up at restaurants in his red dinner coat and sing “Danny Boy”, and stuff like that. She’s always been amazing and super supportive of my music. She lets us crash there when we come through on tour. Hangs out with all of us, takes us out to lunch. Her best friend Doris is also 94 and is a jazz fanatic, and every time I see her at the house she’s freshly appalled that I’m a professional musician who can’t just sit down at the family piano and start shredding jazz standards. She’s like, ‘I thought you were a musician?!’” Since the last Kill Hannah tour in 2009, the band has been pretty dormant. This last year, their annual “New Heart For Christmas” show was held in CA to accommodate both Mat and Jonny’s schedules. Elias has been Ke$ha’s touring drummer, Greg is busy DJing and Jonny is a member of Filter. The thing was, the songs never stopped filling Mat’s head. He released an EP in 2009 for a project he called Setting Fires. It was five tracks that had a larger and more orchestral sound than Kill Hannah. Devine’s vocals were more polished despite this coming before the vocal coaching and healISSUE FIFTEEN

| 39

ing of his vocal chords. EP1 was the only release. But Mat was nowhere near done. This spring, possibly inspired by another old friend’s success with crowd funding, Devine set up shop on and began his effort to make Wrongchilde and its debut album, Gold Blooded a reality. He achieved the goal on September 16 of this year. It is an easy record for Kill Hannah fans to fall in love with. Continuing the food analogy Mat used in the interview, Wrongchilde does incorporate different ingredients but it still begins with the same stock as Kill Hannah. It is a great segue from Kill Hannah’s last two albums; Hope For The Hopeless and Wake Up The Sleepers. In fact “Falling In Love Will Kill You”, the track that Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance sang on, runs smoothly off the back of “Promise Me.” So is Gold Blooded and/ or Wrongchilde a sequel to Kill Hannah? “I see Wrongchilde as a sequel but also different. It was a conscious effort to make something new. What the logo looks like. What font we used for the artwork. What are these songs saying? What choices do we make in the studio? It was a very deliberate 40 | ISSUE FIFTEEN

break. It was an artistic exercise in habit breaking. That is why it was so important. That’s why I am growing so much from it. It’s like you’re a chef, who has worked at the same restaurant that was very successful and that you were proud of. But now you move to a different town and a different restaurant and you change. You force your hand 20 degrees left of center. ‘Of course I’m going to put chives on this potato.’ However, now you think ‘I’m going to do anything but that.’ It’s like brushing your teeth with your left hand every once and a while, which I try to force myself to do.” Way back at the beginning of my dance with Mat, I discovered that both he and I find pieces of Mat lying around. When I find them I wipe them off and hand them back to him. Sometimes Mat intentionally goes looking for pieces, other times they just turn up. But whether searched for or stumbled over they are always among the dust, ashes and trash...the cast offs of other lives. Mat then turns them into something beautiful and so for me, that’s where this album title comes from. I still want to go to “the Navy Pier at 3 a.m.” in the middle of

January to understand his inspirations better. In the meantime though, there is this one bit of overly-sweet candy that is perpetually stuck in Mat’s pocket that he can never quite completely get rid of...his pop inclination. I will never forget his response when I made a song request at a show for an upcoming performance. I really thought I wanted to hear “Sick Boy” live. Mat’s response? “I FUCKING HATE THAT SONG!” It turns out that the track was a bit of a finger in the eye to the music business as Kill Hannah was getting incredibly frustrated trying to get signed by that point in time. Mat wrote something “radio friendly” in response to Kill Hannah’s frustrations. However, once he went there it resulted in a good deal of great pop aesthetic on Forever& Never and Until There Is Nothing Left Of Us. The pop element continues to carry into Gold Blooded. Does Mat finally embrace and own it? “We have a song “Dance To Your Heartbeat” and it has caused our first band fight and I have to defend it. I will always be a “cheese” apologist. Aaron (Miller-guitarist) plays the song under protest. ‘I’m not playing a song called “Dance To Your Heart-

beat” about two teenagers at prom.’ “The way I look at it...David Bowie. If I had to choose one David Bowie album to take with me to an island it would be the ‘Best of’ singles. I love “Let’s Dance”, “China Girl”, and “Modern Love.” I’m not digging into his catalog of obscure ‘B-sides’. I love singles. I do own it and that’s a problem because I’ll never be Pitchfork cool. I’m not that edgy. I love cheesy shit sometimes. You find ways to make it your own. There are smarter ways to do it. I don’t know if I’ve found those smarter ways. It’s a challenge.” “Some of the greatest moments of growing up were with soundtracks that in hindsight are cheesy. I love “Pretty in Pink”, I love the John Hughes soundtracks. Maybe that’s one of those habits I should break. A pop sensibility, however it ends up manifesting on an album is the difference between cut-

ting through that ocean of forgettable stuff. What I take from pop is a good hook...memorable not dumb. You have 10 seconds to get someone’s attention. I study pop. Greg (Corner) gave me a CD years ago, “Monster Ballads of the 80’s” and I think he meant it as a joke but I studied that thing. “Living On A Prayer”, “Cherry Pie”...there’s a reason why there are arenas filled with people around the world singing along to those songs. Maybe you have some dudes with beards in Brooklyn flipping you off but at least they remember those songs.” Even though it is incredibly early in the “Wrongchilde Game”, knowing Mat is always thinking a day ahead of himself, is he considering future records for Wrongchilde? If so, might he turn to yet another old, wellknown friend, Amanda Palmer? “Amanda is a straight up force of nature

in all areas of creativity. I’d love to work with her again in the studio. She also wrote a chapter for my book Weird War One.” Who is the one musical artist Devine would love to write and record with that he has not yet? “I am basically stalking Rob Dickinson. He was the singer of Catherine Wheel, and moved from UK to North Hollywood. I’m not saying I know where his house is...or that I have chloroform and a windowless van and a large potato sack. Or that I’ve plotted a high profile kidnapping for next Tuesday at 6pm, but I think he’s one of the most under-appreciated geniuses anywhere in the world.” There was every effort made to present the interview and the completed story as objectively and professionally as possible but in the end it just didn’t work. This journey would not be where it is probably wouldn’t have happened at all were it not for being caught off-guard in a small Hartford, CT venue by the curious and sad smile of a fellow ‘nutmegger’ after a show. I was still at the point of being easily star-struck and didn’t talk to musicians. But there he stood looking at me, waiting for me to speak. “Where in Connecticut are you from?” That question evolved into the oft-repeated statement “My life is just six degrees of Mat Devine.” Many of the people I have met in this business since that night have either been the direct result of Mat or are somehow connected to him. Gabe Saporta (Midtown and Cobra Starship) used to share a tour manager with Kill Hannah. Jinxx (Black Veil Brides) opened for KH when he was in The Dreaming. Bethany (press goddess for Vans Warped Tour) is an old friend from Chicago and the list goes on. Then there are the many large cardboard boxes or plastic tubs filled with food, tea, socks and Sharpies delivered to venues to make tour life little easier and being dubbed “Road Mom”. This interview is only a small fraction of the repayment of the gratitude I owe Mat Devine. I hope that it touches many and helps grow this new chapter of Mat’s life. Wrongchilde opens the door to a whole new, more personal side of his music. The lyrics touch some painful and dark places where many of us have been. But there are also anthems like “Gold Blooded” and “Lace Up Your Boots” that challenge us to find that courageous rebel inside ourselves and prevail. It is a delicious recipe that should bring many new ears to the table and the best part of this meal is that the chef is...Mat Devine. }}|{{

Mat Devine


| 41



For the last four years I have gone running in the same park on a daily basis. I arrive nearly the same time Monday through Friday and take anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes being somewhat active. I’ve missed days due to too much rain or too much sun, but I always come back to the same park and so do two other people.


ver since I started coming to this park there have been two other regulars. There is an older couple in their 60’s who arrive around the same time on a daily basis. They each come in separate vehicles and spend about an hour together. For as long as I have witnessed this I still cannot figure out what their relationship is outside of clearly being in love. Sometimes they sit on a park bench and hold each other, rocking back and forth. Other times they sit together in one of their vehicles holding hands. They have done this every day for the last four years and who knows how long before that. Every day they arrive in separate vehicles and spend time together. They are usually always talking and I can’t imagine what about. I’m a rather friendly person so I have walked near them and attempted to say hello. They ignore me, in fact looking at me sometimes as if I was going to mug them. Not usually the reaction I muster from strangers. I can’t help but constantly wonder what their relationship is or why the tradition of meeting here at the park has lasted so very long. Are they both married to other people and sneak away to share some time every day? Perhaps it’s something even more boring like they are married to each other

and this is some kind of tradition of meeting after work before heading home for dinner. No matter what their reasoning I insist that it has to be something interesting. The story in my head goes that they are married to other people. These two both have stable long-lasting relationships that they cannot possibly end due to societal constraints. These lovers missed the boat being with each other and realized it too late in the game. So every day, Monday through Friday, they meet at an hour that no one else in their regular lives notice that they are missing. They meet and share the time that they wish they could have always had with each other. They tell each other about their day, cuddle and kiss before going back to the lives people know about. I’ve found that most people’s stories are rarely that interesting and if I were to really know about this pair I’d probably be radically disappointed. That being said I can’t help but think even if this isn’t some sweet romance it is still probably a fascinating one. After all they have lasted for over four years doing the same thing. They seem to enjoy each other’s company as much as they did when I first noticed them. For that alone it must be applauded for remaining interesting if to no one else but themselves!


| 43

OLO T O C K N A BY FR e of g a e h t y le. B a h W y m or Tim f l l men, e d w n t a n s e u o w h rely an a t h t e n u t Things ra r ill fo ore e r m o d m a h d a e ady h Whal e y r l m a m e i h T , y fift times e m ans o m S u . h d t n s a o s han m t n thou y e t a d e e b l y g a m n a sin i m i h o t es. appen m h i t s e g f i n l i e h t v bad ybe fi a m , e m i t a life n i t c e p x could e



o one seems to know why misfortune so firmly grasped Timmy Whale. He came from a well-to-do family with a healthy mother and a father and two siblings that went on to great accomplishments in their professions. For a while, it looked as if Timmy could excel in a career for his grades through high school showed the promise that would point to a great scientist, physician, systems analyst, dental surgeon, chemical engineer, lawyer, etcetera. But as a freshman in a swanky college he attended on a scholarship awarded for exceptional academic scores, something unusual happened. Timmy Whale could not have imagined this glitch in good fortune would ignite a seemingly endless stream of occurrences void of luck that would define his life. It happened in his third month as a freshman. He woke up early to get to a class. As he lifted his head from the pillow and swung around to place his two feet on the side of the bed, a move he made successfully everyday at his dormitory room, the bed shook the night table and the lamp on the table fell on his feet as they hit the floor. The light bulb exploded and shards of it shot upward into Timmy’s eyes. He stood up in a panic, temporarily blinded, tripped on the lamp and hit the wall where his nose engaged the fire alarm. Timmy’s roommate jumped out of bed and, rudely awakened from the alarm, mistook Timmy for an intruder and punched him squarely between the eyes. The force of the strike hurled Timmy back to where he crashed through the window and fell out of the fifthstory room. Arriving firemen broke Timmy’s fall, but he became tangled in their fire hose and was dragged over the pavement until he was noticed to be the cause of the hose’s inability to stretch its full length. When it was all over, Timmy Whale was hospitalized for three weeks. Though he only needed to be treated a few days for the dormitory accidents, a number of new, discomforting incidents affecting him while he was in his hospital bed promoted more injuries and a longer stay. Since the dormitory incident, not a day went by that did not place Timmy Whale in harm’s way. Day after day, he battled unfortunate fortuity. No matter where he went he was the victim of unpredictable and unfortunate instances causing him bruises, contusions, a wrench of this body part and a sprain of that body part. He had to drop out of college and did, literally, when he fell from the gymnasium’s rooftop basketball court when struck in the head by a misguided, full-court airborne shot. Without a college education, Timmy Whale could not live up to his potential and he was forced to take low-paying jobs to make ends meet. He thought he would inherit enough money to avoid working at all and to pay his ever-increasing health insurance premiums as his misfortunes ensued, but it turned out that his father’s Last Will & Testament was partially destroyed in a fire and the part destroyed was the section thought to have left Timmy a substantial amount of money. Timmy Whale went to see psychiatrists, clergymen, astrologists, hypnotists, and nutritionists. None of them could find a solution to stop the barrage that was Timmy Whale’s daily, damaging existence. The years crumbled by and Timmy Whale lived each day as if it were his last because each day that seemed to be the case. Nearing his 50th birthday, Timmy Whale awoke one day earlier than usual because his mouth was filled with paint chips. The ceiling just above his bed began to shed a layer of crusty paint directly above Timmy’s mouth. Still asleep, he had begun to yawn when the hard paint cracks entered his mouth. At first, Timmy didn’t know what to think about what was in his

mouth. Having been sleeping and experiencing another in a constant parade of nightmares, he was suddenly sitting up and choking. He spit and most of the paint chips came out, but he could feel some tiny pieces stuck at the top of his throat. He started to breathe through his nose to get air, stepped out of bed and ran out of his apartment building (by this time he only rented rooms on the first floor) to the hospital on the corner (by this time he knew it was smart to live close to a hospital since he always had more ill fortune than a thousand men; maybe ten thousand). Out of the hospital and feeling a bit better, Timmy Whale was on his way to his job as a street-side pamphlet distributor when six pigeons slammed into his head, knocking him to the ground. Timmy looked as the pigeons perched upon his chest. They began to defecate wildly on his body before flying away. Timmy picked himself up and dragged himself to the entrance of his building when the front door swung open and a man came running out, careening off of Timmy and causing both of them to tumble to the sidewalk. They fell in such a way that Timmy wound up on his back with the man on top of him. Unfortunately, the man was around 300 pounds and his stomach was pressing against Timmy’s crotch. Timmy wound up back in the hospital until around two o’clock when a doctor thought it best for all that Timmy recuperate elsewhere. But just as Timmy was walking out, he passed a room where there was a short in the life-support machine that had been left there from a man who had died that morning. The short caused sparks to fly and one hit Timmy’s shirt, setting it aflame. A hospital orderly sprayed Timmy with a fire extinguisher but the force of the spray pushed Timmy back far enough to crash through a window and fall to the ground three stories below. Timmy hit the ground beside a stray dog foaming at the mouth from rabies. Startled and threatened, the dog began to bite Timmy repeatedly. Then a policeman who had been chasing the rabid dog shot at it three times. One of the bullets hit the dog in the head and killed it and the other two shots went through Timmy’s feet. As Timmy lay on the pavement waiting for the paramedics he thought, “Oh my goodness. It’s only Monday.” On his birthday, Timmy Whale made an innocent move to retrieve mail from his outdoor mailbox when a stiff wind blew the mailbox door shut and cut Timmy’s wrist. A man in a car passing by saw Timmy’s arm bleeding, stopped and looked at Timmy. “Don’t do it son,” said the man, “not here, not now, and certainly not in front of the mailbox.” The man grabbed Timmy and shoved him into the passenger seat. Timmy moaned as he hit his head on the door. The man sped off and said, “Suicide is not an alternative. You should recognize the blessed time you have on this planet and respect life.” Just as Timmy was about to explain that he was not committing suicide, the door on the passenger’s side opened and hit a pedestrian. The impact caused Timmy to sway half way out of the car. Since he had not put on his seatbelt, the belt locked around his ankle. As the driver made a sharp left turn Timmy was hurled out of the car, dangling in the air. The driver said, “Hold on, the hospital is just around the corner.” But Timmy’s body hit a lamppost and he was disengaged from the car as the driver continued to turn around the corner. Timmy lie on the curb and though aching felt relieved for a moment. Until, that is, he saw three stray dogs with lathering mouths jogging his way. He sighed, this poor soul named Timmy Whale. Then he whispered, “I wonder if I got any mail?” A year later, Timmy Whale died painlessly in his sleep from natural causes.


| 45




| 47



ris Allen knows a little something about surviving whirlwinds. After all, he emerged from his win of American Idol’s eighth season as a recording artist with a platinum-selling single. But even the most seasoned whirlwind survivor might find Kris’ last eighteen months a bit daunting. In January 2013, he and his then-pregnant wife were in a headon collision that shattered his wrist. A week after the accident he was on the road headlining a tour, his arm in a cast. In July 2013, Kris’ son Oliver was born and he became a first-time father. And in the little-over-a-year since his son’s birth, Kris wrote, recorded and independently produced his third solo album, Horizons; started an independent record label, Dogbear Records; undertook the label’s debut release (the aforementioned Horizons); toured in support of his new album (twice); was tapped to compose music for the short film, Fork; and moved his family to Nashville. And he survived it all with his positive outlook intact, looking towards new horizons. Music was always a big part of Kris’ life when he was growing up in Arkansas. By the time he auditioned for Idol in 2008, he knew he wanted a career in music and had left college to pursue his dream. But there weren’t any real outlets for making a living playing music in his town and he wasn’t sure how he was going to make it happen. That’s why Kris will always be grateful to American Idol for giving him a springboard off which to launch his music career. But with the release of the Charlie Peacock (Civil Wars, Switchfoot) produced Horizons as well as the launch of yet another national tour in support of it, Kris challenges those who think he is “just that kid from Idol” to first listen to his music or come out to a show. He is confident that given the opportunity, his music will change their mind. In fact, Kris views changing people’s minds as just one more exciting and rewarding part of his journey. Despite being on tour, Kris took the time to talk to Fourculture about his new album, becoming a father, and starting his own record label. During our conversation it quickly became clear that Kris really is just as laidback, upbeat, and genuine as his music sounds. But it was equally clear that behind the charming grin and boyish looks is a man who knows what he wants and doesn’t mind working hard to get it; yet will remember to thank those who help along the way and give to those in need. In fact, a portion of Horizon’s sale proceeds is being given to the Music Empowers Foundation to support music education. Kris Allen is a talented and dynamic performer who proves that when talent is combined with hard work, tenacity, a positive outlook and a little faith, nothing is impossible. ISSUE FIFTEEN

| 49

Music has always been a big part of your life. I know you started playing music in elementary school, but I want to know why did you pick the viola as your instrument? I picked viola because my best friend in 4th grade picked it and we wanted to play together [laughs]. It’s funny because he only played for one year while I played and was in the orchestra all the way through high school. I actually had a scholarship to play in college, but I didn’t take it. When did you start playing the guitar? The summer when I was 13 my brother and I spent the days at home together because both my parents had to work. When my brother was at the pool, I started teaching myself how to play my father’s guitar and I didn’t tell anyone. I remember that I played a song for my parents at the end of that summer and they were like, “When did you learn how to do that?” [Laughs] I didn’t tell anyone because I was a shy kid — super shy — and I just kept a lot of things to myself. Why did you pick up the guitar? Was there an artist or an album you were listening to at the time that inspired you? I’ve always listened to all different types of music — country, R&B, and even some rap when I was a kid. I still like all kinds of music. But that summer I wanted to learn how to play the Eagles because that’s guitar music, you know? I would hear their songs and think, “I want to know how to play that.” But I also wanted to learn songs that I could sing along to. Are you self-taught on the piano, too? Yeah, that’s pretty much self-taught. I’m not the greatest piano player in the world. I can for the most part play a song on it. And I can fake my way enough so that people think I know what I’m doing. I was in college, I think, when my parents bought me a keyboard and I learned how to play it. You attended the University of Central Arkansas for a while before leaving school to pursue a music career. When did you first know you wanted a career in music? I think I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to play music. In high school I played baseball as well as played in the orchestra and I remember thinking even then, “I am way better at music than I am at baseball.” And I mean I actually played on the team. I was a starter, but I knew I wasn’t going to go anywhere in baseball. So I think I always knew that music was the thing that I was best at and the thing I wanted to do. Now at the same time I was also think50 | ISSUE FIFTEEN

ing, “I have no idea how I’m going to make this happen” [laughs]. Because at least where I lived, there was just no real outlet for making a living playing music. And I didn’t have any knowledge about how to do that. So I would play and write songs, but I never knew how to make it my career. What made you decide to leave college to pursue music and how did your parents respond when you told them? I think it was just the thought that getting a college business degree wasn’t my end goal. The end goal for me was always music. So I finished out the year and then told my parents I wasn’t going back. I got so lucky with my parents. They are amazing. They are incredibly supportive of me and I think they always wanted music for me because they always saw that I was passionate about it. I think they were actually kind of happy for me when I decided to do it. I mean, I do think they were a little pissed about some parts of it - like I had lost my academic scholarship and we were going to have to pay back some academic loans and they certainly weren’t stoked about that. But in the grand scheme of things I think they were happy for me to be doing what I loved and what I wanted to be doing. I have a confession to make: I did not watch American Idol the year that you won. I actually became a fan with your second album, “Thank You Camellia.” And so I’m wondering - five years after the show - how do you separate yourself and your music from the “American Idol contest winner” label, while still acknowledging that it was a positive experience in terms of your career, the people you met and the opportunities it made possible? It’s a fine line because you do want to acknowledge the part the show played. I would not be where I am today without it. But I always say this: There is a point where you have to separate yourself from the show and the first thing people think when they hear your name shouldn’t be ‘Idol,’ it should be your music. Sometimes that’s really tough for people to do. I’m really lucky. I had a great first single off my first album. But even so, I still deal with people who hear my name and the first thing they think is: “Oh, the kid from Idol?” And actually that’s totally fine. Most people know me from the show. The general public isn’t where the problem lies, really. It’s the stuckup people in the music industry that go, “Oh, he’s just a kid from Idol,” you know? Even with this new record we had plenty of doors close because of that mindset. But it’s exciting to change people’s minds, too. And when they say, “Well he’s

just a kid from Idol,” we say, “Well, why don’t you listen to his music and then you can tell me if you think that he is just a kid from Idol. Or better yet, come to his show.” And I feel like most of the time I — my band, my music, and I — change people’s minds. So I’m still on that journey of trying to change people’s minds, which is kind of a fun journey and really rewarding. But again, there is nothing bad about the show. And it’s stupid that there is this weird stigma attached to it just because some people think that if you don’t get hugely, hugely successful right off the show, then you are a bust and you have no chance [laughs]. And I don’t think that is true at all. I think that there is a different path for all of us that have been on the show and for all musicians, and I’m really glad that I was on the show. As I said earlier, I had no knowledge about how to have a music career. I don’t know what I would be doing right now without the show. I would probably be playing music, but it wouldn’t be my career. I’d be playing at a church somewhere — which is awesome and really rewarding — but in my heart that is not what I wanted to do. So I am happy that I was on the show but it is a fine line you have to walk. The last 18 months have been kind of jam packed with changes and “firsts” for you. You had a serious accident and injury; a baby; independently produced your third album; played multiple tours; and moved to Nashville. Mostly it sounds exciting, but it sounds pretty stressful, too. It has been, but you know it is all just part of life I guess. Things happen and then you have to move on. I am definitely not going to say that it is the least amount of stress I have ever been under because it is really probably the most. But at the end of the day it has been good and I have learned a lot. Well congratulations on the birth of your son Oliver, who recently turned 1! Are you exhausted? Although I will see Oliver tomorrow, I haven’t seen him in almost two weeks now. And this is going to sound bad, but when I’m on the road I probably get more sleep than when I am at home. I feel pretty rested right now. But when I am at home – it’s a different story. It takes a lot to take care of a kid and I commend my wife for all she is doing. And taking care of Oliver isn’t even all that she does every day. Really, she does so much! How has becoming a parent changed your approach to writing music and finding your inspiration? It’s totally changed it. Becoming a parent changes the way that you think about things.

the same because I could not move my wrist for a long time and I still only have like 30% of normal movement, maybe less, in my wrist. So the way that I play guitar is different now, but in some ways I think it made me a better player. It made me focus on my guitar playing a little bit more and resulted in the songs being a little more melodic. I do think it made the songs better. There is definitely inspiration to be drawn from the challenging things that happen in your life. I didn’t really want to write songs about any of this because I wanted to forget about it. In general, I don’t ever want to look at the bad things in the past. But when we were writing songs for the record, the producer of Horizons, Charlie Peacock said, “I want you to write a song about this” and it was like, “You have to write a song about this.” And “In Time” turned out to be one of my favorite Have you found it difficult to balance songs that I’ve written in a long time. performing and being out on tour with being a Dad? Have you found anything It is one of my favorite songs on the althat helps you find a balance between bum. And I played it for my husband and my oldest son and now they both have the two? Well, we made the decision to move to the album, too. It is a song that really Nashville before Oliver was born, although resonates, I think. That’s very cool and it’s good to hear. I we didn’t actually move until three weeks ago. That was definitely a step towards mean that’s what you want. You want peomaking sure we stay a family and that I’m ple to like your music and you want people able to be around a lot more. No matter to listen to it. I appreciate that. what, I will always have to go out on the road. But we’ve always done a really good Tell me about your usual songwritjob of finding ways – and routing tours – so ing process — do you usually write by I’m not gone for too long a stretch and I can yourself or do you like to collaborate on go home or my wife can come to me if we songs? need to. But as far as writing and recording, I would say there definitely was a time sometimes I had to leave then too, because when I did not like to collaborate. Because I was in Arkansas. And I love Arkansas - it’s in general, you spend a couple hours writmy home and it’s where I will always con- ing a song with a person that you probably sider home - but it was hard and I started to barely know; there is a lot of emotional dissee that it was only going to become harder connect under those circumstances and it is and harder. I want to be around for my fam- hard for me to fall in love with a song written ily. I want to be able to go to baseball games that way. But I think on this record I found and go to his first concert if he plays mu- a way to fall in love with songs I work on sic. So that’s why we made the decision to with others: come up with an idea for a song move to Nashville. And it has been a good whether lyrics, melody or both, and then decision for us, so far. have someone help you write that song. I think collaborating proved really helpful on Last year you were in a car accident that this record. Although there will always be resulted in a serious wrist injury that re- songs that I write by myself, there is somequired several surgeries to repair. I know thing great about collaborating with someat one point you were worried that you one. You get something new every time. might not be able to play the guitar again. You get a new lyric that you wouldn’t have How did the emotional and physical toll come up with otherwise, or a new chord or of your injury and recovery impact the melody and I think it proved really helpful for new album? this record. And I’ve always collaborated Well, I learned a lot about myself. I was from the first record to this one now - but not willing to give up or just accept an inabil- I have never liked collaborations that I’ve ity to play the guitar. I was determined and done more than I do those for this record. I spent a lot of time playing the guitar with a cast on - most of last year actually [laughs] How did you decide Lenachka would be and it was interesting. I would lay my cast the guest vocalist on “Prove It to You?” on the front of my guitar and just play the I love “Prove It to You!” The first time I chords in a finger picking style. It was not heard it on the radio was yesterday and I I feel like I haven’t had to prove anything to anyone except myself for a long time, and now it’s like the bar has been raised because Oliver came into the world. It’s been exciting because I want things to be even better for him: I want to make better music because I want him to be proud of me, and I want to handle the way that I do things better because I want him to be proud of what I do. I was always super proud of my Dad because he worked really hard to make sure that we were taken care of and could do the things we wanted to do - and I want that for Oliver. And I mean, it’s inspiring just to hang out with a kid, especially so when it is your kid. You start to find out more about yourself and you start to recognize characteristics and personality traits about yourself. It’s pretty eye opening.


| 53


just started smiling and thinking, “I love this song.” [Laughs] Charlie (Peacock) also produced Lenachka’s EP, and she and I had written a song that ended up being for her to use. When I wrote “Prove it To You”, Lenachka was actually in the room. She didn’t write the song with us, but she was actually in the room. We’d sung together before - her voice is so beautiful — and I just really liked her, so when Charlie asked what I thought of her singing on this song, I said absolutely. So we got in the studio and I think we sang the song down. Charlie put the beat on to the song, I played guitar, and then we both sang it at the same time. We did the song down maybe three times, and Charlie said, “Okay, I think we got it.” And I think we both felt that way, too. That doesn’t happen very often on a song like this, where you do it a couple times and you feel like you’re done. I think we did a couple more takes, but then we were like, “Yeah, I think we got it beforehand.” In fact, all the takes after the first three were crap compared to them.

Charlie is an incredible producer and a great guy. But in addition to his sheer talent, he never lost sight of what we wanted to accomplish. We had conversations where he asked me what I wanted this album to sound like and from there we developed concrete goals for this project. And then he made sure we kept those in the back of our heads the whole time. And it is really nice to have that one person be in charge as far as the production and the sonics of everything. Because I can always change my mind mid-project as I’m writing new songs [laughs]. So it is a good thing when there is one person saying, “No, we have to stay the course. I know you think we could go this way, but let’s just stay the course we’ve set.” And Charlie did a great job at that. You put Horizons out independently, on your own Dogbear Records label. How was the experience of being in charge at every step of the process? I mean, other than the fact that it changed everything about the album making experience for you [laughs]. [Laughs] Yeah, it really does change everything. There are still people that help me make decisions, but at the end of the day it is all me. When you become your own independent label and you’re putting music out on that label, there is something really rewarding about it. There are a lot of different hats that I have to wear, but I think that is part of where the music industry is going in general. I did this because I felt like it was the right path for me. I was with a major label for two records. I’ve seen what they can offer. And I’ve seen what they said they were going to offer and what didn’t happen. I had a great relationship with the people at the label I was on, but I just wanted to try to put an album out this way. I wanted to try making a record by myself and so far so good. As far as whether I would do it this way again, I think time will tell. I don’t know yet. But I think it has been a good process so far and I have definitely learned a lot.

You have said in other interviews that you were inspired on Horizons by the timeless and effortless sound of artists like James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan and that was something you hoped to capture. And I got to thinking how exactly do you translate “effortless” into a sound? That’s a great question. I think there are plenty of songs out right now that sound like they are trying really hard - whether it is to figure out the catchiest hook possible or it’s on the production of the song. I had songs on both my earlier albums that I thought felt like that, and I didn’t want that this time around. What I wanted to take from those artists — from the James Taylors, from the Bob Dylans, from the Paul Simons — was how every single word feels like it just flew out of their mouth. It doesn’t feel contrived and it doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard. So I don’t exactly know how to translate “effortless” other than to write songs that feel really good to me and that feel like good, Who are the bands and artists you are listening to these days? Who is on your timeless songs. favorites playlist? I know it was important to you that there Let me see [pulls out device]. I really like be just one producer on Horizons. How Haim – in fact, we are doing a cover of one did having Charlie Peacock as your pro- of the songs at our shows right now. I really ducer help you capture your vision for like Sam Smith; I think he’s doing some cool this album? stuff. I’m searching through everything I got

here trying to find the new stuff [laughs]. I really like Kacey Musgraves. I think she writes amazing songs and I think if this were 1993, she would not be considered a country artist. You give a lot of interviews and answer a lot of the same questions – what is one thing that people might still be surprised to learn about you? That is a tough question because I really do feel like everybody knows everything you could possibly know about me, you know? When you are on as big a stage as I was — even if information wasn’t revealed on the show — some people found a way to dive deep into my life. You have asked really good questions. I just don’t know. I can’t think of anything right now. Fair enough. What’s the last book you read? I’m reading the Harry Potter books because I got talked into it and I actually really like them. I’m in the middle of the fourth book so don’t tell me anything that happens [laughs]. What is the funniest “catastrophe” that’s happened to you during a show? [Laughs] There are a couple of them. I remember I fell once and it was pretty bad. I busted my knee on the monitor at the end of a show and it was bleeding a lot. But I still had to go out and do the encore because you know, “The show must go on” [laughs]. There was also a time when we did a show with Lady Antebellum in L.A. and they asked me to come up on stage and sing “Hey Jude” with them during the encore. And so I got up on stage only to discover my zipper was down when all the people in the front row were pointing at me. So yeah, that was awesome…or not [laughs]. I think that is probably the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to me on stage. Finally, Fourculture wants to know: What are your four favorite things – the four things you couldn’t (or just don’t want to) live without? That would be my family, a good book, my guitar and eggs. Eggs? Yeah, I love eggs [laughs]. ISSUE FIFTEEN

| 55

New York City, in Movement The Photography of


New York City, in movement. New York City is movement. A collectively excited scream with an exacerbated sigh. The lights and the people mash together in an uncontrollably controlled chaotic bliss of art, commerce and enough bravado for both. The colors are so bold that even in the black and white wonders presented to us by Jay B. Wilson we are pierced with color. New York City is not a melting pot, but the melting pot. Patriots and pavlovians, street vendors and so many bohemians all caught in rhapsody, the original Supreme, the true Heavy. To be lost in the fog is to become crystal clear while wandering through the photography of New York City by Jay B. Wilson. — The Artist D

going into the wild BY SER EN A BUTLER

Barely going on 26 years of age, Stephen Wrabel (known by his stage name Wrabel) has done a lot and is nowhere near the finish line. After writing for a slew of well-known artists; Singer-Songwriter Wrabel is ready to head out into the wild in 2015. Sometimes the wild world of pop music can be a very scary place. There is clawing, biting and even killing (okay, not so much killing. You’ve seen some of those catfights though!), but it is a very difficult genre to break into. After shattering the charts with his Super Bowl debut collaboration with superstar DJ Afrojack “Ten Feet Tall” that is bound to go into the top singles of 2014, and a very beautiful EP Sideways showcasing his softer side, Wrabel is bound to capture the hearts of MORE adoring fans worldwide. We were lucky enough to capture the busy singer for a few words on his explosive debut, collaborating with other artists, and most importantly what’s coming up for him in the future. So sit down, relax and watch the latest creature of the pop kingdom jump, swim, and slither his way back to the top of the charts in the wild world of pop music.

got the chance to present your music to Afrojack? What did you think when you initially heard his take of “Ten Feet Tall?” Me too! It was all through the label really. To my understanding, Daniel Werner and David Massey were playing Nick (Afrojack) some music and they thought of me. Since he’s just about ten feet tall himself, they thought it’d be appropriate to play that song. Nick told me the first time he heard it, he heard it how it sounds now, fully blown out and blown up, full of life and energy. It was really cool to hear that from him and really interesting. To me, it was always like a melancholy love song almost saying, “yeah I think I’m falling in love, but I still don’t quite trust it.” I think you can hear that in the original version I did with Chris Braide. The first time I heard the Afrojack version, I cried. I guess I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe what he’d done to it, how he just brought it to life.

For those who are unaware, Wrabel is actually your surname. What spurred the decision to take on your last name as a stage name? It is! It started out as a nickname really. My friends started calling me “Wrabes” and “Wrabel.” I guess I just kind of went with it.

2014 has been an explosive year for you to say the least with the debut of “Ten Feet Tall” during the Super Bowl. How did the involvement with the Bud Light advertisement come about? How has your life changed since then? Well, I still don’t feel cool so mission not accomplished. I have to give it up to Island Records on this one. They secured the sync and again, I cried. I just couldn’t believe it. It’s been quite the adventure really. I’ve been running around with Afrojack playing huge shows and I’m used to about 50 people being a PACKED HOUSE. He’s in a different world. I’m on a plane to New York right now. I’m playing at Barclays with him on Tuesday night. Then at Rockwood it’s a piano and me on Wednesday night. I kind of love it, though: Getting to see and taste and experience two worlds at the same time. It feels special. I don’t know how to describe it.

There is a heavy piano driven influence in your work. When did you start playing piano? Are there any other instruments we might see you play in the future? I started playing the piano at 15. I took lessons when I was younger, but absolutely hated it. Not to say I loved the lessons at 15, but I was just much more inspired by then. I started playing because I wanted to write a song. The song I ended up writing is pretty shitty, but I wrote it nevertheless. I recently just bought a baby Martin. I don’t know anything about it. I tuned it and it’s quite fun to play around with. We’ll see if it sticks around.

When listening to your music, it feels like you’ve grasped a lot of inspiration from many places. Who or what inspires you? Who are your biggest musical influences? That’s a tough one. My steadies are Paul Simon, Kate Bush, Aqualung, Dan Black, and Coldplay. There are more than those, but that’s what comes to mind. I write from experience. I write because I want to say something to myself, to someone I love, to someone I don’t, whoever it is. I write because there’s no other way for me to express some things. I think I answered the question. I’m bad at this. Personally, I am a huge fan of when established artists give a lift to new artist to have their time in the limelight, sort of like Timbaland and One Republic with “Apologize.” Now that everyone has heard the remix, can you tell us how you


| 71


The original version of “Ten Feet Tall” is a very heavy ballad in contrast to the uptempo remix done by Afrojack. What is the story behind “Ten Feet Tall?” It’s about falling in love. Those first few days or weeks when you feel things like you’ve never felt before, when any hurt or pain in your past feels a million miles away. When you’re terrified because you’ve never been so happy and you just want to crawl out of your skin, in a good way. I wrote it with one of my favorite collaborators and a good friend of mine, Chris Braide. He’s a truly gifted and special man. Speaking of song creation, your songs tend to have a very similar relatable message/theme on this EP. When you’re writing, what do you feel is your favorite theme for songs? Longing? Maybe. Probably. I hear a lot of longing in my music. I guess that’s because I feel a lot of longing in my heart. This EP, for me, is made up of little snapshots of a relationship. I always want something or someone. I’m always trying to fix something, myself or someone else. I tried to fit a lot into this EP. You’ve done quite a bit of co-writes for artists including Adam Lambert, Stan Walker, Blake Lewis, and many others. What do you love about writing for others? Are there any favorites that you’ve written for that you can tell us a story about? Who do you dream you can write a song for? I love being able to enter someone else’s mind, to get into their heart and hear what they want. What are they trying to say? How can we say it in a way that’s true to them? I’ve kind of been writing with someone I’ve dreamed of writing with and I can’t say. I hate that. Don’t you hate that? I’m sorry? I’m sorry. Many artists work on their debut works for a long time, sometimes even years. When you go back and analyze what you released or where you first started, how have you grown since that first writing session for the EP? When did you start constructing your debut? The EP is all relatively new. The full length has some oldies on it. “Ten Feet Tall” is the oldest on the EP and is 5 years old I guess. Wow, they grow up so fast!

We wrote so many songs for both the EP and the full length. I think towards the end, I stopped editing myself so much and I stopped being afraid of saying things I really wanted or needed to say. It got real, I guess. We went there in ways I didn’t quite expect or intend. Floating around the net is your reaction video to the first time you heard “Ten Feet Tall” on the radio. You actually called and requested yourself! Let’s go back to that day for a moment. What exactly went through your head when you decided to call up the radio station? What was it like to finally hear yourself on the radio? Holy. It was so fun and funny and inspiring and tear-worthy. Again, I cried. I was with a few of my friends driving around in Orange County on, like, a Wednesday night. For a couple of weeks, I’d been getting texts and pictures and videos from people like, “YOU’RE ON THE F***ING RADIO JSHF A9JW4GIASG,” but I hadn’t heard it myself so I called in and requested it! I’d never called a station before and I didn’t know that the host just picks up. Casey McCabe picked up and I asked if he could play “Ten Feet Tall.” He asked why and I said something like, “Oh you know, I just love, uh, that song so,” and my friends started hitting me like, “TELL HIM!” So I told him, “Oh, well I sing on it?” and he believed me. Not! I pulled over and tweeted to him and 97.1 AMP radio about being on hold trying to request my own song. He was so sweet and was really a nice guy. He asked me a few questions and then he asked if I’d intro the song. I spent a good bit of time talking with him. That was such a special night. He told me it’d be on in like 10-15 minutes, so I pulled into some strip mall parking lot and we all waited.

working together. We did a good bit of writing at the end of last year out in Paris, some work in LA when he was out visiting, and I’m actually about to write with him next week in London. Woot! I know it might be a little early to discuss future recordings, but where do you feel you’d like to go next on your musical journey? Could we expect an album out of you in the near future? The full length is coming! No date set, but it’s coming. I have no idea where I’m going or where this whole bit is going, but I just don’t stop writing. I just can’t. When I do, it’s not good. It’s bad. My plan is to just go with it wherever it takes me and wherever the music goes. I’m just trying to follow whatever it is that told me to write a song in the first place. It’s known that you’ve done quite a bit of shows around the LA area. Is there any intention to tour further? What do you want the audience to experience at a Wrabel show? I’m playing a bit, yeah. Mainly LA and New York. No news on a tour or anything like that. Not yet. I’d say emotion. The biggest compliment to me is a tear. Ha! Really though.

At only 25, you’ve accomplished quite a bit in your life so far. What advice would you give to the next generation of songwriters? Well, thank you! Hmm, shit, I don’t really know. I’m still asking for advice every day. I’ll probably never stop. Maybe that’s it then. Maybe my advice is to ask for advice. Never think you’re done learning or growing. Never think you know everything and always ask for help. Always collaborate. Expand your mind and your heart and your everything. Go see the world. Fall in For the track “Into the Wild,” you had the love. Fall out of love, not intentionally, but chance to work with Dan Black. How just live. Go live and go write and go ask for did that come about? What drew you to help. We all need it. him? What was it like to have him as a collaborator? Lastly, if you could be drawn into any carI did? I did! Dan is one of my favorite toon (could be film or television based), artists. I fell in love with his first record, his what would you like to be featured in and lyrics, melodies, and production. He’s a why? 100%er. That’s so rare, especially for it to I’m going have to say “Adventure Time.” be so good and so inspired and to be all just I’ve never seen the show and this is for a him. He’s also one of the funniest people very hilarious and very secret reason. I’ve ever met. What a prick! He’s so sweet. We’ve become good friends through our ISSUE FIFTEEN

| 73


Sprechen sie electronic pop-rock musik? BY K ATH Y CR EI G HTO N

It’s interesting and strange to come into Captain Capa’s world as an American with little to no knowledge of the mainland European music scene in general and electronic music in particular. It quickly became very clear that it is definitely different from mainland Europe. Hannes and Maik were excellent teachers though.


he first contact with Captain Capa happened at Warped Tour in Hartford this past July. Having received a request from their PR team, the only preparation material I had was recorded music. A slick combination of pop and electronic, the style had familiar elements. Initially they brought to mind a favorite Chicago group Comasoft, but Captain Capa’s choruses and bridges have more of a hard rock punch to them. A listener can head bang, dance, or both. It’s the kind of sound that triggers hands to beat out the drum line on the steering wheel. The day passed quickly and ended without getting to Captain Capa’s set. This still feels like a good thing. Most audiences never get to see the other side of performers so they create personas based on what they see on stage. This was the reverse. Off-stage Hannes (as he told me“like hummus with an n instead of m”) and Maik showed their “kid-in-a-candy-store” side. These guys were so excited about everything American. They talked at length about absorbing as much of the local flavor all along the Warped Tour route as they could. Following up with Hannes a couple of months later, he was still very enamored with the “over-the-top”, flashiness of the U.S. music scene as a whole. “It’s a little weird. We were touring with Crizzly and Antiserum at one point. On that tour, we learned a lot about the electronic music scene in the US. Although a few years behind Europe, it seems like electronic music, especially EDM, is booming hard now and the US is doing everything in such a huge flashy way. It is exceeding what has been done in Europe. The US electronic music festivals are so super turned-up. We don’t have anything like that in Germany. We have electronic festivals, but what Americans do is like the Disneyland of electronic music. I’ve heard about EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival) and Tomorrowland and whenever I see video and pictures...Holy shit! That is so much of everything! It is over the top. Here in Europe and Germany in particular, things are more conservative. Well lit, but not super flashy. I kind of like the over-the-top. I went to a club in Tampa to see Crizzly and Antiserum and it was an electronic club on crack. Lots



of lights and rotating dance floor. If it ever came to Germany it would be crazy. I could see myself going to a club like that once a month for the experience.” As the conversation unfolded Hannes explained how mainland Europe, although progressive musically, is still kind of highbrow artistically. Where as New York City takes itself very seriously as one of the oldest arts hubs in the US, Europe’s arts are far older. Hannes gave a European’s point of view. On the subject of pop and electronic music he mused, “When you grow up in Europe, Germany in particular, you hear a lot with a lot of electronic music without realizing what it is. The pop music that was prevalent when we were young was really hard techno that you would not hear on the radio or on the charts today because it is way too hard. Cheesy pop acts like Mr. President and stuff like that. Really hard beats, fast techno beats that are on the radio often so it affects you later. Later we listened to Notwist and a lot of club music from 2006-2007. That was a great time for electronic music, bands like Digitalism, Bloc Party, Mastercraft, and Justice.” Hannes and Maik are old friends. They grew up together in the same small, rural town in East Germany. “We had garage punk bands, school bands but were never in the same band. We were hanging around every weekend though. Around age 18 we said, “Let’s do something creative together.” So we bought synthesizers and sequencers and played with them like a gaming console because we didn’t know anything about it or about electronic music. We had seen other electronic bands so we wanted to do it. It looked like a lot of fun with a lot of trial and error.” Speaking about any formal music education, Hannes admitted that he never did very well at it in school. “I never really learned how to play instruments. I couldn’t read notes. Singing in front of the class was a problem. It made me nervous so I was the class clown.” So getting back to how he and Maik actually wrote and recorded their music he says, “We did it by ourselves in a playful way. This gave us a feeling for melodies and composition. That brought us to where we are now.” The follow-up interview offered a deeper look into just Hannes. He is currently 27 years old. Like all German children, he learned English as a second language in school and is pretty fluent. Reading the band’s Facebook, one learns that his nickname is Ashi, which was derived from the warrior hero of Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka. “I took Ashi as a nickname as a young teen when I discovered the internet.” So if he is a fan of mange and anime, is he also a comic book nerd? “I’m into Marvel, artsy, European stuff.” De-

spite his love of American alternative rock, he was not familiar with Gerard Way’s (My Chemical Romance) graphic novel series “Umbrella Academy.” He promised to check it out. Hannes is also an avid video gamer and wouldn’t mind hearing Captain Capa’s music in a game soundtrack in the future. The mention of Eastern Europe and Berlin sparked the question of whether Hannes had been born when the wall came down. “I was a small child when the Berlin Wall came down. I grew up with the effects of a freer Germany.” He says that there are still reminders of the days that the country was divided. “If you visit a big city in Eastern Germany and one in Western Germany, you will definitely see differences. The buildings look more Russian in Eastern Germany. There is a difference in wages. Art wise, it has melted together in the last few years. There are many different influences. I grew up with a lot of political music, but we are anti-fascist, left sided influenced by the politics of our upbringing. There are still people that miss the days of East Germany though.” Captain Capa does have a bit of an arts community surrounding them. Although they don’t necessarily participate in gettogethers in their own apartment building, they do invite friends over to run new music by and use their input to tweak songs. “There are collectives of people who will work together on creative projects. I live in a house that resembles a 1960’s get-together house. One neighbor is a guitarist, one that’s a painter and one has a bar and they all work together. They are a different generation so we don’t work with them. Neon Schwartz lives in an artist colony and works with neighbors and guests. We’re kind of the same mindset. We invite friends and artists over to work on music. It’s a creative melting pot.“ Discussing the German arts culture and comparing it to New York with New York taking itself seriously when it comes to art based on being one of the oldest arts hubs in the US, does Germany take itself equally or even more seriously being that like everything else, it is so much older than the US? “There are a lot of artists who take themselves seriously. Berlin is mostly filled with people who didn’t grow up there, but people who moved there to fulfill their arts and creative projects. You meet a lot of people who are snobby about their work. Thankfully we found a record label (Audiolith Records) that is not snobby.” So revisiting US and Warped Tour influences, “When I came back from America, it was a bit of culture shock. What’s trending now in Germany is bands who take themselves very seriously. The line-up of Berlin Festival felt like a lot of the bands that looked and felt the same, very monotone. America is so much more spread out. It’s ISSUE FIFTEEN

| 79

wilder and more colorful. I found myself disappointed with German scene. It’s way too boring.” He admitted that he and Maik came back from the US with a number of worksin-progress that were inspired by their time in North America and then fueled by this boredom. Hopefully they will be released on a new album in the not-too-distant future. It’s kind of hard not to agree as a fan of pop, electronic, and dance music. Hannes says that right now “folk and folk indie like Mumford and Sons are popular in Germany. What I experienced in the last few months is more bands are coming along with real instruments and ‘true’ music, non-electronic bands that feel that they are better. They are a bit pretentious. I don’t like the fact that people are getting fed up with big room electronic sounds. They seem to want something more toned down. It will probably come to the US in a few years.” What about the current trend, at least in the US of throwback, retro sounds from the 70’s and 80’s, some even as far back as the 60’s. “The 1975s are going that route. They seem to be inspired by 60’s and 70’s, but a more modern sound. Something definitely seems to be happening. Maybe it’s a bridge to something super innovative. Everything 80 | ISSUE FIFTEEN

is a copy of something else. I would love to see something fresh.” This year was the second outing on Warped Tour for Captain Capa, but the first with the new Beatport Stage, which is dedicated to dance and hip-hop music. When it came to the “boot camp vs. summer camp” question both Maik and Hannes said that this summer was definitely more summer camp with last year being boot camp. “We did a few weeks in 2012, but it was not the whole tour, not the whole experience. In Germany, we have long festivals and many of them, but this is very different because you are living inside the festival for two months. It’s kind of like summer camp and you have to play a show every day. Our first time on Warped was more ‘boot camp.’ Last time, we had a tent every day. This time we don’t. There’s no merchandise to deal with. We are playing and doing interviews so it’s not as exhausting. We use our free time to get to know people and make friends and do a little promo work.” When not attending to their own music and PR, Captain Capa, like many other artists on the tour, took in as much music of other artists as possible. At the Hartford stop, they had finally gotten to see Bad Rab-

bits and were impressed. However, a lot of their free time had been spent checking out their own stage. “The bands we see the most of are the bands on Beatport and so far we love them all. We’ve gotten a bit addicted to watching K Flay.” Warped was the first US outing for Captain Capa’s latest album, Foxes, which was released in the Fall of 2013. Touring in Europe includes mostly clubs that are concert venues and after show parties.The band tried dance clubs and it didn’t work for them. They have found that people who frequent that type of venue are looking more for DJs with well-planned set lists. Captain Caps also plays festivals in summer. They mainly play around Austria and Switzerland along with their homeland of Germany, as there is the common language along with a shared music scene. They have ventured into Russia and Tokyo before but those were one-show things. “In the next few years, we would like to get out into the world more.” The US tours were very big for us so we want to extend our time there for sure.” Is it possible they will return to the Beatport Stage in 2015? Hannes says not to rule that out.



| 81

Machine's Eye View On Dumb Shit Or Machine's the Best of Luck in the Morning BY A DA M D

Like a dose of deja vu, I’ll come back to that later. I know that writing an article for an internet magazine, about how stupid the internet is, may not be the best idea. After all, I have made some really great friends over the internet. Wait, does that sound a little pervy? Or sad? No. I have met these people in real life. Even some of the ones I haven’t met yet are still awesome. The internet is a great connector. So, dear internet, I am all for you. Take a bow. Just for once, this is not some serious discourse on a subject, sorry to disappoint. I’m not going to drone on about the social benefits or otherwise of the whole shebang. The world can be a miserable and scary place. Even on a day to day basis, we all need a little pick-me-up from time to time. Who doesn’t want to look at a cute furry animal or someone screaming in pain after straddling a railing rather than jumping over it?


urking behind all the good stuff, sneaking into the party unnoticed, like a spotty teen clutching a paper cup of warm cider, we have...the dumb shit. Now this is not the kind of 'schadenfreude' I referred to earlier. That is most definitely dumb. So is all the 'Bad Lip Reading' that I love so much. My sisters and I watched the one of Beyonce singing the national anthem over and over. We were 3 year olds. “Again! Again!”. I also find some of the 'shredding' very amusing. One Direction murdering 'The Story Of my Life'? Yep, I”ll have some of that. No. What I'm talking about is the stuff that pretends it's sophisticated. It suckers you in and you spend a few moments deep in thought. You wonder just what will happen next. The anticipation building all the time. Any second now. Here it comes. It's...hugely disappointing, usually. What did you expect? Dumb ass. What am I going on about? 'Which Star


Wars character are you?', 'Which Game Of Thrones character are you?' I've got some news for you. If you weren't actually in either of those, then the answer is 'none of them'. You knew that before you started, so why are you now shouting at your phone “no way, I'm Han Solo! Not an Ewok!'” So you do it again. Putting in entirely different answers this time. Guess what, you're still an Ewok. And yet, you're not. Never were, never will be. Third time lucky? This time you get Luke. OK, fine, that's close enough, you think, as you mutter 'stupid thing...wanted to be Han...stupid Luke...' under your breath whilst going off to take a whizz. The internet likes to pretend to be sophisticated even when it's not. Now, there's someone at Fourculture who posted on their Facebook page a summary of their character, with percentages next to different things, like 'outgoing', and 'creative'. This is a very creative person. Yet her percentage for 'creative' was 20. This annoyed her. Rightly so. I was drawn in. What kind of

questions were you asked in order to come up with this seemingly challenging and controversial portrait of yourself? So I clicked on the link. 'Enter your name' it said. OK. I know this. I can do this. I did it. I clicked 'next' and up came my percentages. I transported myself back to the 80s (again) and became a TV character that I never was, and let out a slightly high pitched and elongated 'sayyy whaaaaaat?' You mean to tell me, internet, that you can tell me what kind of person I am by just learning my name? I don't remember any of the percentages, but I can tell you, stupid internet, that 'gullible' is pretty low. Sometimes. I was reminded of the 'craze' of spending money you don't have on typing in two names to your mobile (at premium rate) to find out if you are a love match. At least the internet doesn't charge you for this crap. But it kind of does. It's a tax on your time, you see. Add up all the moments you've spent doing pointless 'what country's flag are you most likely to wave from a window

whilst a parade of characters from Game Of Thrones goes by?' quizzes and you could probably have written this article. Probably better than I am. Or have. We have a thirst for knowledge, for self-awareness and for being loved. The internet takes the piss out of us and for this, it needs a good slap around the qwerty. 'What kind of internet am I?' A pretty cruddy one, when you get smug and complacent. I'm afraid there's more. It's not just the internet that keeps us dumb(er). Next on the shit list? Siri. AKA 'Seriously, I'm Really Irritated'. First off, you have a brain. If you're not always good at remembering stuff, write it down. If you don't know where you're going, use a map. Or even ask someone. OK, so I know in many parts of America, walking is unheard of, but you could wind down your window and shout....wait, if you wind down your window, the car next to you will either speed off or pull out their gun on you. Because In America, you have a right to defend yourselves against people asking for directions. Maybe Siri is essential in certain parts of the world. But let's face it, just because you can have a 'conversation' with your phone, it doesn't mean you should. Also, Siri is a fucking liar. And lazy. I just opened Siri. Or activated him. Or whatever the fuck. Here's what the lying little dick promised me.. “Some things you can ask me: Is my daughter at home? What's my ETA? What's Emily's address? Find the best nail salon (We'll come back to this later) Now, I wasn't aware I had a daughter, but is intelligent, right, so I figured, hey, if I have a daughter, I'd better make sure she's at home, safe and sound. So I asked Siri “Is my daughter at home?”. It's a lot cheaper and less humiliating than going on Maury to find out if I am the father, after all. I didn't have to wait long before I got my answer. “I don't know who your child fact, I don't know who you are. But you can tell me...” Oh HELL no. No fucking way. You told me I could ask you if my daughter was at home. You fucking told me that. Now you're pretending you don't even know me? You're just trying to get information out of me to make you look good to your friends aren't you? Next, you'll be wanting my bank details so you can take Mrs. Siri on a romantic date at my expense. Maybe get her nails done first. Not happening pal. I calmed down. It's maybe not his fault. I don't actually remember ever introducing myself to Siri. He just appeared on my phone, like a U2 album. On to question number two. I'm writing this on a train. So I figured, OK, it would be useful to know my ETA. Don't want to get hassled by being mid-sentence as my

station comes up. Thanks, Siri, I will take you up on your kind offer. “What's my ETA?”. I ask. I'm on a train. I know this. Siri is with me. He should know this too, right? He's intelligent. His response? “Sorry, we don't seem to be navigating anywhere. If you'd like directions, just say 'get directions to...wherever'” So, basically Siri, you can't be arsed to figure out how long it will take the train I'm on to get to my station. In fact, you've pretty much given up on being any kind of help at all, haven't you? Shit! Here's my stop! Thanks a lot Siri. So far, so bad then. Modern day inven-

tions designed to help you, and they offer no real help whatsoever. Worse than that, they 'pretend' they can help. They give off the air of intelligence, but they're not. They are dumb. Much like the people who rely on them. I've got one more, then I'm out. One more chance to see if modern life is, as Blur put it, rubbish. This time I'm feeling confident. I can put myself in the warm clammy hands of artificial intelligence and expect everything to be taken care of. What I want to talk about now is predictive text. This is nothing new. Back in the days when letters had to share the same space as the num-


| 83

ber pad, when you had to press the '1' key three times to get the letter 'c', phones have been helpfully offering alternative words based on what we've typed thus far. It used to amuse me and my Notts County supporting friends no end. The club shop became the 'club sins', and a home game became a good hand. This is because you had to hit the same numbers on the keypad for either word, and the phone would often offer up the wrong one first. Now though. Now, things are superintelligent. You see, on new phones, three words helpfully appear. Even. Before. You. Start. Typing. That's impressive. You can be super lazy now. Just sit there and think about all those conversations your phone can map out for you without all that unnecessary typing. You can win back all that spare time to...I don't know, look where you're going instead of walking into a lamppost, or onrushing traffic. But is it impressive? I've decided to let predictive text take over for a while. I'm relaxed. This should be fine. So all I want to see the new one is going to be the best. I love the fact that the government has been in the first place, but it is not the best. I'm not sure how much I love the way you can be used for the rest of the year. The fact that I can see the point of view of my friends and family and friends and family members of the day before the end of the day before my birthday is tomorrow. This is getting me nowhere. I'm back now. Typing all the words I am choosing to, thinking for myself and using my fingers. So how long will it be before predictive text takes over? On the basis of that example, I'd say that you are so cute when you get the chance. Sorry. That was the text talking. It's quite flirty, clearly. That could prove useful for shy people who can't construct sentences. Let's give it one more chance then. I'm so happy for you guys. Awwww. That's sweet. I'm warming to this. On we go... I'm at work today and I'm just going to be able to get my nails done. OK. So I'm not convinced I'd ever say that. I do my own nails, for starters. I could ask Siri to point me in the direction of the nearest nail salon though. Maybe if I nudge it. Provide the first word of the sentence. Otherwise it only seems to offer "I", "The" or "I'm". Nice try. Lots of sentences start there. But then lots don't. Lots and lots. Like all of those ones. So maybe I'm being unkind. Give me a topic. Any topic. Predictive text, you say? OK. Let me try that. I will get the sentence going and see if my thoughts can be predicted. I'll try really hard this time. OK. Here goes. You can get the hang of it and the rest of the day I don't have to do it. That's the only thing that I can see it as a 84 | ISSUE FIFTEEN

result of the best way of saying that. I should add that I am having to choose where to put the full moon. It doesn't ever seem to offer punctuation of any kind, let alone something as useful as the new update to fix this problem with it and the rest of my favourite songs. So there are flaws, clearly. It's a well known theory that if you put a room full of monkeys in a room full of typewriters they will eventually hammer out the complete works of a sudden urge to watch the movie and the rest of your friends. I think that just about sums it up. The Internet is the perfect opportunity to catch up

with friends, even watch a movie. Use it for stuff. But don't forget to think for yourself. Otherwise it's not like I don't know how to make the most beautiful girl in the morning. There it goes again. Flirty and slightly inappropriate. There's a metaphor for the Internet. Or is it a slogan. Or maybe a manifesto for modern living. Or not. I'm off to bed now and then you can do it all day long. Christ. I'll leave you with a song. It reached number one in both the UK and US charts. It's reached number one in lots of countries. It's been in most country's charts for almost a year. So if predictive text doesn't know this one, it won't know any. I'll start each line off

correctly, to give it maximum chance to predict it correctly. I also added the 'yeah's because otherwise the sentences would just go on and on. Ladies and gentlemen I give you Happy by Pheromones Willing It might seem crazy, but I can't wait Sunshine she's here, and it will take I'm a hot air balloon and I love you so With the air, but I don't know what you are Because I'm so happy Clap along if you have a good time waster Because I'm so happy Clap along if you feel like a little bit of a new Because I'm so happy Clap along if you want to go to bed now Because I'm so happy Clap along if you feel like I'm not sure what to wear Here come bad news conference at the end, yeah Well, give me all you got, and it will be a good idea Well, I should probably warn you about the future, yeah No offence to you, but I can't believe that this is the best way of saying that it is a good day Because I'm so happy Etc Bring me food Can't believe Bring me some food My level's the best Bring me food Can't wait Bring me food I said (talk to my friends) Bring me some more Can't wait to Bring me food My sister is so cute Bring me food Can't believe Bring me food I love it Close, predictive text. Close, but no matter. Yeah. Because that's a well known phrase. You dickens. Right, I'm off. Me and Siri are heading out for something to drink. We've made up you see (we haven't kissed yet). I paid him another visit and he said I could ask him to “find coffee near me�. That's my kind of language.

The best in SOUNDS, VISIONS, WORDS & VOICES is right here

Closing Time B Y D A RYA T E E S E W E L L


n Saturday night, bars in West Hollywood blaze with Dionysian anarchy celebrating the end of bondage to the straight world’s workweek. Alcohol is god, but Cannabis, Meth, Cocaine and Ecstasy sporadically catalyze release on the dance floor and in back rooms. Saturday is to forget the daily humiliation of life in a bland, awkward world full of earnest breeders. Sidewalks fill with a pulsing anemone consisting of couples, singles on the make, and young straight girls who flock here to flail to thumping dance beats, open sexual energy, and boys who compliment them on their shoes. The Abbey, Mickey’s, Here, Mother Lode, St Felix, Rage and others; names vanish and reappear. Ultra Suede. Girl Bar. Club Cherry.

“...we drink, we tweak, we fuck, we snort, we rave.” The Abbey Bar is the Public Square of Gay West Hollywood. The Abbey is the bar you take Mom to, at least during the day. You buy her an overpriced salad as she sizes up the new boyfriend or girlfriend. Everyone passes, at some point, through the Abbey, if only because it’s a place you can take a straight friend or have a leisurely brunch. There are five places within its cavernous depths to buy alcohol, two large dance floors, tables, couches and cubbies. When mom and dad aren’t around, mating flowers in Arabiannights booths behind drawn curtains on huge cushions. Tonight, we go there first, the first bar of many. Later, we cross the boulevard. At Rage, we wait in line to buy our wristlet of admission. By evening’s end, a happy cruiser may have three or four wristlets or stamps from different bars on. Two stories, two dance floors blasting the constant THOOOMPTHOOMPTHOOMP beat that goes so perfectly with sex, alcohol, and ecstasy if you know how to score some. Me: Tall, sober, and trans in a sea of hard drinking gay men and scattered lesbians. I get variations on “OMIGAwd, yer so beaufull and brave, omigawd!” and ignored, since a trans woman is essentially the Ahi appetizer in a restaurant full of men who come for the steak. Gay men know I’m not in drag. I produce a different pheromone. Drag queens are hot gay men in dresses. Rip that dress off? It’s on. Smear that lipstick, Bitch. THOOOMPTHOOOMPPTHOOOMP. A few butches flirt with me; lioness smells antelope, butch smells femme. A tall, courtly, muscled woman with full sleeve tattoos and short salt-and-pepper hair sweeps me off my feet and initiates me fully into the Sapphic rite in my dreams, but not tonight. Ambient noise level at Rage is 115 decibels at least. The woofers rattle your bones. Bodies bump, rub and push through crowds; gyrating fish in a sea of sweeping lasers. Shout in the ear of the bartender for tonic and lime, give him a ten, leave him a five; free drinks all night. Dance. Beautiful boys. Tank tops. Sweat. Muscles. She pulls me. “Where are they? Have you seen them?” “Don’t know…downstairs?” “I’m texting them” “They were already pretty hammered.” “They’re at Here. Come on.” A drunken boy grabs her breast, thinks it’s fake. She pulls his hand off. “Fuck!!” he says.” She’s got real breasts…Fuck…!” Back in the soft spring night, there’s

Lomo Asado cooking in the Argentine place. Two boys kiss over a bottle of Spanish red. We cross Santa Monica Boulevard, two intricately tattooed girls with nose and eyebrow rings hold each other up, laughing. A guy in front of us wears a leather harness, no shirt. THOOOMPTHOOOOOMPTHOOOOMP. Down a long ramp is Here. Pay at the gate in the back; another wristlet. Videos of hot boys, go-go boys on circular platforms, flashing lights; two boys kiss and block our path. “I see them. In the patio.” Garo is in drag. Cheap wig, long cheap silver dress. Superb makeup by a friend. He’s holding the shoes and his friends are holding him. “Im sirun lolik! Yes chokh?” “duk’ aveli chokh, yerb durs e yekel tnits’!” Two of her friends kiss me on both cheeks. They are not in drag, just dark-haired, beautiful boys. I don’t speak Armenian, and I turn to my left. Two blonde men are entwined together. They smile and ask me “Are you a gypsy?” I’m in my long black skirt, boots, and headscarf. “A gypsy whore!” I reply. We laugh. “Got a cigarette?” I ask. The older one lights me up. “Can you tell our fortune?” The younger one takes my hand. He likes my rings. “You two are madly in love. When are your birthdays?” “Both in May. Two days apart” They kiss. “Ah…Both Taurus? You have fantastic sex!” We all laugh. “We’re from Missouri.” A cool breeze showers us with a few purple Jacaranda blooms. “We’re married.” “I see a long and happy life.” I say and I do. I touch their faces. They both have green eyes, like me. The young one touches my ruby cross. Fifty years ago, there would have been queer blood on this street, instead of queer love. Barney’s Beanery used to have a sign that said “Fagots: Stay Out.” They can’t blame us for dancing. They can’t blame us for drinking and holding our bodies close. It’s harder to beat us and kill us, but it still happens. They raised us to hate ourselves and only now are we barely human to some of them. I used to drink because I hated myself. I drank because I was never going to take Debbie to the Senior Prom. I wanted to be Debbie, in long white gloves and a backless dress, smoking and drinking Vodka on the patio with the other girls in shoes that were too tight. The THOOOOMP around us drives home the escape, the flight, the sensual over-

load we need to remember that we still may be strangers here; we drink, we tweak, we fuck, we snort, we rave. I used to try for that zone, that precious zone where the cocaine and tequila took me for a brief walk on a night with a cool breeze like this one, with a rain of jacaranda blossoms, in my dreams because in truth I was never going to be a girl; I was sentenced to life as a false front; I had the rage that only a prisoner feels, and if I’m honest with myself, I still do and always will. We stand on sacred ground, bought with queer blood, bruised bodies, broken bones and lives ended abruptly in the shadow of smug complacency and a crucifix used as sign of terror. Queer men and women of color are welcome here now, but still too uncommon; their queer nightmare even longer and more brutal, between the blue devil police and a deep white sea. “I think we’re going…” She says. I kiss the Missouri boys on their cheeks and leave lipstick traces. “Happy life!” I say. “We’re going to the Abbey” she says. It’s after one. The Abbey is chaos. Our wristlets get us in. We’re surrounded by happy, lusty queers of all types. Some are buzzed, some are bombed, all are trying to squeeze another few minutes of Saturday out before the bars close at two. My friend is a cheap date, but she knows her limits. She’s drinking water while two of the Armenian boys do shots. We’re on the street at 1:50 as the bars begin to empty. A girl with short platinum hair is heaving violently in the street while another girl with red dreadlocks strokes her back. Behind us another girl screams, “You fuckers!! You fuckers left me again?! You fuckers!!” seemingly at no one, her face contorted with rage. Two gay boys hold an older gay man up; he can barely walk. Two muscled twinks in tank tops skip across the Boulevard laughing; traffic is crawling as the mob fills the streets. We hear a man getting sick behind us, as two kids ask us if have any weed. We’re heading toward the parking lot behind Micky’s and she asks me, “Do you mind driving? I don’t think any of them should be.” My answer, of course, is yes, I’m happy to drive. We pass two girls making out, then two boys making out, and two cross-dressers giving water to another cross-dresser sitting on the curb with her shoe off. I think of Fellini Satyricon, William Hogarth engravings, Francis Bacon, Paul Cadmus. Finally, I think of my rumbling stomach. Nothing left to do but go to the International House of Pancakes. ISSUE FIFTEEN

| 87


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.