ISSUE EIGHTEEN | MAY/JUNE 2015
SOUNDS | VISIONS | WORDS | VOICES
ASH | MONOSWEZI | THE YOUNG PROFESSIONALS | VAIN MACHINE FEMME FACADE | DEREK BISHOP | SAMAH ALI | WILLIAM DORESKI
SOUNDS | VISIONS | WORDS | VOICES
The Artist D MANAGING EDITOR
Paula Frank CREATIVE DIRECTOR
Ann Marie Papanagnostou MUSIC EDITOR
Fourculture features artists who are unearthing the underground. Are you one of them?
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COVER PHOTO BY KYLE CASSIDY © 2012-2015 Fourculture Magazine Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 2 www.fourculture.com
tare into her eyes. Examine his fingertips resting above the name plaque. Embrace murals with your mind. Touch the sculpted rock and purvey its curvaceous nature. When you look at a painting in the museum you are looking through the eyes of artists to see what they saw. If you are lucky enough to touch the marble then you are feeling the crevices of a dead man's chisel. Should you be so lucky to hear the piece that was written then you are hearing into the mind of composers. I like to watch people at the museum because only a few of us belong to the unspoken club. The underground veins full of artists loving art for all of the right reasons. It's a look and I think we know each other when we see each other. We could release the secrets and poetry of perusing a museum and they would still be secrets. It takes a special person to become enchanted with painted pictures and hundred year old sculptures. A special nature that has become further overridden by people staring into their cell phones while ignoring Mrs. Mona Lisa. Fourculture Magazine covers the vast amounts of cultures which are secretly publically available among a mountain of talent. As I write this I am staring at the mysterious enchanting canvases created by our featured artist Femme Facade. I wondered how many people would stare too or which ones would be the unknowing masses passing on with nary a glance. The test of recognizing someone from our not-so-secret club. I am motivated by the pillars of our culture, the four cultures that we often speak of. Our magazine is a rainbow in a moody dark jazz club. I am psyched yet soothed into meditation by reading the thoughts of our artists, musicians, storytellers and poets. It's all like water color in a vibrant splash as severe droplets run down a cheek or a jawbone. Let them walk on by. Let them not understand and just stroll on past like an ignoramus to a New Orleans funeral. We are the keepers of the open secrets. We are the artists and art lovers. We are grasping at beautiful strands of thought in this beautiful secret place filled with so many beautifully talented people. Follow The Artist D: @theArtistD
features Monoswezi......................... 6 Vain Machine.....................14 Ash................................... 20 Amanda Palmer................ 24 William Doreski................. 37 Femme Facade................ 38 Samah Ali......................... 46 The Young Professionals.... 52 Derek Bishop.................... 56
regulars Frank Cotolo..................... 48 Mack â&#x20AC;&#x153;Dangerâ&#x20AC;? Daniels.... 50 Adam D............................ 60 Darya Teesewell............... 64
MONO 6 www.fourculture.com
seeking musical expression BY M A RGUER ITE O’CO NNELL PH OTOG R A PH Y BY CF W ESENBERG
onoswezi is a renowned world-music group that combines the sounds of traditional African music with the cool tones of Scandinavian jazz to create a sound that is as stunning, as it is unique. By seamlessly merging the vocals and percussion of traditional African songs, the tones of Zimbabwean mbira (finger piano), and the rhythms of modern jazz, Monoswezi connects East African music, Nordic music, and modern classical minimalism with such brilliant balance that no one element ever fights for prominence. Their breathtaking music lets the metallic sounds of mbira play off sexy saxophone and clarinet jazz riffs, while each weaves sinuously amidst the sympathetic percussion. Monoswezi moves beyond the narrow meaning and constructs of culture and genre to achieve a fresh sound that is modern, yet completely timeless. To hear the sublime, cohesive tones Monoswezi creates by blending elements of such far-flung and diverse genres is to know that Longfellow was right; music truly is the universal human language. Started in 2008, Monoswezi is a collective of musicians with a shared passion for traditional African music. They also have a common desire for musical expression that respects both, tradition and the references of modern Western music. Using a strong improvisational approach, Monoswezi performs traditional African music as well as the original music of band members Hope Masike (lead vocals, mbira, and percussion); Calu Tsemane (vocals and percussion); Putte Johander (bass); Hallvard Godal (saxophone and clarinet); and Erik Nylander (drums and percussion). Honoring their cross-cultural collaboration, the band’s name is an amalgam of the four countries from which the members originally hail: Mozambique (Mo), Norway (No), Sweden (Swe), and Zimbabwe (Zi). On May 25th, the group will release Monoswezi Yanga, their second full-length album on Riverboat Records. It follows their critically acclaimed 2013 release, The Village, which was a prestigious Songlines Music Award Nominee. Even though the album's official release date is still several weeks away, Monoswezi Yanga is already attracting the attention of music fans and critics alike. In April, the album was chosen "Album of the Month" by "World on 3” (BBC Radio 3) and the video for single, "Matatya” was number two on "Coundown of the 10 Best World Music Videos" (World Music Network's video chart). Despite living in three countries and being spread out across two continents, the members of Monoswezi were kind enough to answer some questions for Fourculture readers.
You have band members from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Norway and Sweden — how did you all meet? Hallvard: In 2008, I got the chance to live and work in Maputo, Mozambique, for a whole year as part of an exchange program between Norway, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. I had occasionally had some connections with African music prior to this, but I really didn’t know what I was getting into. During that year, I got the chance to play with a lot of fantastic musicians like Eduardo Durao and his Timbila Orchestra. I completely fell in love with the music and their approach to playing music, even though it was very different from what I had been doing up to that point. I also met Calu during that year and got to play with his percussion trio. When I returned to Norway, Xavier Samito Tembe (voice, percussion) from Mozambique, and Nqobile Khoza (voice, mbira and marimba) from Zimbabwe were living in Norway as part of the same exchange program and I started to play a little with them. I had previously played in different groups with Erik Nylander on drums and Putte Johander on bass and also asked them to join us, as they had both been to Africa and were interested in African music. We played some concerts and actually released an album, Monoswezi, on a small label that Putte and I started called Parallell. Xavier and Nqobile moved back to Africa, but Hope came to Norway as part of the same exchange program
and Calu permanently moved to Norway. means ‘One’ and ‘Swezi’ means ‘World.’ That is when we all started to work together. The second being that it is an amalgam of the four nationalities represented in your When first starting out as Monoswezi, did line-up: Mozambique (Mo), Norway (No), you have a clear idea what type of sound Sweden (Swe), and Zimbabwe (Zi). Tell you wanted the band to have or is that me how you picked the band’s name and something you have let evolve over time? whether either or both of these meanings Hallvard: We were not looking to go figured into that choice. Hallvard: Picking a band name is alinto anything in particular. It kind of just happened, much in the same way that other ways difficult! I am not usually fond of takprojects or groups I have started or been a ing the first letters of each member’s name part of. I have almost never first sat down to make a band name. But with the counwith an idea like, “It would be nice to try and tries’ names, I liked it. I kind of stole it from combine this kind of music or instruments the exchange program I was part of. It was with that kind of music and instruments, and named MoNoZi, and I just added Swe for then try to find the musicians to play togeth- Sweden. I really liked the fact that it starter.” My experience from previous collabo- ed with ‘mono’ meaning one, even though rations with all kinds of different musicians we come from different parts of the globe. and styles of music is that it is not the in- Then my mother thought ‘swezi’ meant strument, style, or background that are the world/planet/star and I thought it was a main limits in getting a collaboration or band beautiful combination, although I haven’t to work musically, but it is how you play been able to confirm it yet. The only thing I and relate to music and playing together. have found out so far is that ‘Ikwezi ‘means I guess it is much like with people; some- morning star in Xhosa. times you find out you have more in common with a person from the opposite side of the Briefly tell me about your musical backworld than your neighbor next door. Usually grounds; the instruments you play and it seems collaborations like this work best any formal training or lessons you’ve had. when there are no really strong ideas about Hallvard: I started to play the violin how it should sound before we start to play. when I was a kid and moved on to clarinet So the music has been evolving over time. and saxophone later on, mainly playing classical music until I was around 18. Then I’ve found two different meanings of the I started to study jazz and improvisation. I band’s name. The first being that ‘Mono’ went to the Norwegian Academy of Music www.fourculture.com 9
in Oslo and Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen mainly to focus on jazz and related music. I guess it was after finishing my education that I began to get interested in World Music. Erik: My background has been mostly in jazz. I play a kind of “prepared” drum kit. Hope: I got introduced to mbira by one of y Fine Art lecturer’s friends. He walked barefoot, had naturally-locked hair, and was just a unique sight. So when he would play his mbira in the corridor when he came to see his friend, we watched with interest. We asked him to teach us mbira and he agreed. He asked us to just show commitment by each buying our own instrument. So I bought my first mbira, which was a 28-keyed Mbira dzaVadzimu type. He taught us some pretty cool traditional songs. I fell in love with the music, the instrument, the history, and the attention I got when I played it. After my Fine Art Studies, I went to a local music college and joined Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet. Both made me love African music even more. Calu: : My musical background is based mainly in cultural exchange programs. Both my grandpa and my dad were guitar players and I got my love of music from them. I started making music around 1994, writing lyrics for my rap band in Maputo, Mozambique, and playing a keyboard I got as a birthday present from my brother and cousin. My passion for percussion started in 2003, when I joined the Cultural exchange program called Umoja-CFC as a visual artist. There I had chance to meet many different people coming from four different countries - Norway, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. When I finished my visual arts studies in 2006, I kept playing percussion with a trio of colleagues and that was when I met Hallvard in Mozambique. A year later I moved to Norway and we continue to play together today. Putte: I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden, and started my music career as a young teenager playing in Ukulele Killers, a ukulele duo that played punk covers. The instruments I played seemed to grow larger and larger until suddenly I was standing there with a deep voice and a double bass in my hands. I played the bass in music high school in Stockholm, through music school in Sweden, to rhythmic music conservatory in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I fulfilled a five-year master’s degree. In Copenhagen, I had the opportunity to play with many great players from all over the world and I met Hallvard Godal there. Besides Monoswezi, I also play in other bands based in the Scandinavian countries. The mbira has a storied history and has not traditionally been considered an 10 www.fourculture.com
instrument that women play. Hope, why did you first decide to learn? Hope: When I started playing mbira, I got a lot of attention because very few women played it. Even though it had been many years since mbuya Stella Chiweshe, mbuya Beulla Djoko and Chiwoniso Maraire started their careers as mbira-players, there were still very few women playing mbira commercially. My first mbira teacher asked why I wanted to play mbira and I told him that, besides the fact that it had a beautiful, soothing, and unique sound, I wanted to make loads of money with something my ancestors had left for me. Also, though documented history says women were not allowed to play mbira, it never bothered me. In fact one of my music lecturers later explained that there had been two reasons for that restriction, the main one being that women already had many domestic duties and not much time to learn mbira. He said it had been out of respect that they decided to relieve women of the gwenyambira responsibility (to play mbira at traditional ceremonies), and not just men bullying women as many scholars have made us believe. Now as gender roles in homes have changed, it is not so shocking to see a woman playing mbira. In fact, it’s very fashionable now.
to tour with one day. Monoswezi gives me a platform to be experimental with my traditional and Jazz roots, based on a foreigner’s interpretation of music I have only known to be played a certain way. It’s always fun to hear how a new ear hears my music. So I introduce a traditional song or I compose a song, then everyone just interprets it the way they feel. Our creative process is therefore very open and collaborative.
Your upcoming album, Monoswezi Yanga, is set for release on May 25th. How does this album differ from your first album, The Village? Did you take any different approaches in making this album? Hallvard: We had this idea of doing it a little differently than with The Village, which was very spontaneous and recorded live over two days in the studio, after just a couple of rehearsals. With Yanga, we have been working more with arrangements and using new instruments - like bass marimba, bass mbira, guitar, and harmonium - and recording more voices and instruments. We also spent longer in the studio, over several different periods of time, and used more variation in instrumentation, like duets and trios. I guess one could say that The Village was recorded more like a traditional acoustic jazz quintet album, whereas Yanga is You are all involved in other music proj- more ‘produced’ in a way. ects and live in three different countries, so I’m curious about the group’s creative How and where did you record Monoprocess. How do you choose the tradi- swezi Yanga? How much of the creative tional African songs the band will per- process behind the album did you have form? Is the compositional process while done before you actually entered the reworking a song collaborative? Are the studio to record? Was improvisation original songs that the band plays the re- and experimentation an anticipated part of the process? sult of collaborative songwriting? Hallvard: We recorded it at Putte’s Hallvard: When we started recording the album we had a lot of songs, both tra- studio at Koster Island in Sweden. On the ditional songs and songs based on a tra- songs we had been playing live for some ditional groove or line, as well as original time, we used the live version as a starting compositions by Hope, Calu and me, that point. The new songs we just started to were inspired by tradition in one way or work on in the studio. Since we were using the other. During the process some songs Putte’s studio, we had the freedom to try out were dropped and some ended up on the different ideas without thinking about the album. Some of the songs we have played meter running. On some songs, especially live for a long time and some were played the ones we have played live for a while, we in the studio for the first time. For most of had a clear idea of at least where to start. In our songs, Hope will have an idea. It can be general, improvisation and experimentation a traditional song or a song she has written have been a very important part of the proand we will then play around with ideas to cess. The recording process for the album make it into a Monoswezi song. So it is a was over several different periods of time very collaborative process. Sometimes we and we played some concerts during and end up not so far away from the original way in between working in the studio, where we of playing it. Sometimes the results might experimented with new ideas that we then be completely different so there is not much took back into the studio with us. of the original song left, and it ends up alEven though the album isn’t set to most like a new song. Hope: I have a band at home that I hope be officially released until later this
month, Monoswezi Yanga was chosen by “World on 3” BBC Radio 3 as April’s Album of the Month. And your music video for “Matatya” was second on April’s Countdown of the 10 Best World Music Videos (World Music Network’s Video Chart). Congratulations! Once the album is officially released, what can fans expect for the remainder of 2015? Will you make/release more music videos? Are there any live performances or festival appearances planned? Hallvard: Thank you! Always very nice when it turns out that people like the music! There are no plans for making or releasing more videos this year, but we will play concerts in Scandinavia in the fall, a tour in Africa in December, and hopefully there will be some more. How do you relax when you aren’t writing or playing music? Hallvard: On tour, we usually like to have small competitions, playing ping pong, running, pool, maybe in combination with a glass of beer. At home, spending time with my kids, going to concerts, meeting friends. Erik: Running or having a good beer. Calu: I like to make food. Healthy food. I’m very inspired by making food that is colorful, rich in taste and nutrients. To relax, I do Ashtanga Yoga, watch movies, kiss my girlfriend, or watch documentaries about Space, science, design, culture, etc. Putte: When we are on tour, we relax when we play. When we aren’t playing, we compete with each other in different extreme events. It can be everything from swimming 10m to a silly walk competition. It is very exhausting and you need to be in top form, physically and mentally. As a contrast to this; when we play, we can forget all about competition and just relax and go with the flow. Finally, what are your four favorite things, the four things you couldn’t (or just don’t want to) live without? Hallvard: If people count as things, then I would say on tour: Hope, Calu, Putte, and Erik. At home: my kids and my instruments. Erik: My wife, music, Frank, and Omar. Calu: First is MUSIC, as my body, mind and soul are composed of rhythm, melody and silence. Second is family, as they support my music and me. Third is FREEDOM because it is like water; if you are not free, then you will dry up and be immobilized. Fourth is having the right of choice. I think it is essential to have a right to choose what is right for you. Putte: My family, my friends, my music studio, and my oven.
VAIN MACHINE PUSHI NG THE A LTE R N ATI V E BY M A RGUER ITE O’CO NNELL 14 www.fourculture.com
ain Machine is a new and rapidly rising electroindustrial duo out of Los Angeles whose signature sound has been compared to a “wall of impending sonic doom.” And in the Industrial/ EBM world, that is high praise indeed. In a crowded electronic music market overflowing with bands blasting a familiar synth-pop vibe, Vain Machine has carved out an innovative niche with their dirty-driving bass lines, sweeping pads, razor sharp leads, and rhythmic electronic percussion. And unlike so much of today’s electronic music, Vain Machine’s thick layers of sound aren’t compensating for anything that may be missing. In fact, listening to the band not only reveals edgy, dark, and driven production, but also the infectious melodies and catchy hooks indicative of stellar songwriting. Omar Quinones and Beau Baker began Vain Machine in 2013. They met years earlier when Beau remixed a single for Omar’s then music project, ROOM 1202. After that band dissolved, the duo stayed in contact and eventually decided they should try working together. Looking to industrial and EBM artists such as De/Vision, VNV Nation, Nitzer Ebb, and KMFDM for inspiration, Quinones and Baker
So your debut album on AnalogueTrash Records, Lost, is getting great reviews. Congratulations! Both: Thank you very much. Help the readers of Fourculture get to know a little more about you and briefly tell me about yourselves: where did you grow up, what instruments you play, what bands you played in before Vain Machine. Beau: I grew in a town called Nipomo, California. I started playing drums when I was nine years old. There was always music playing in our house and I listened to the music my two older sisters played, a lot. And when the whole electronic era started happening, that's when I realized that this was something I wanted to do. I loved playing the drums, but I knew I wanted to learn how to play the keyboard, too. I kind of knew what I wanted to do, what sounds I wanted to make, and I just taught myself. To this day, if there's a specific sound I want and it's in my head a certain way, I will sit in the studio for hours until I get it right (laughs). I eventually became more interested in sound design, beats and programming and moved to Los Angeles. I started doing various musical projects in LA, I played in multiple cover and tribute bands, sat drums for different bands, did programming for bands that needed drum programming, baselines, or sequences, and I also did remixes, which is how I met Omar. Omar: I grew up in a small, desert town
crafted the electro-industrial sound and heavy, dark vibe for which Vain Machine is known. In May 2013, Vain Machine began self-releasing tracks and immediately attracted a lot of interest. They played their first show that November and in less than a year, signed with AnalogueTrash Records, an independent, UK-based, electronica label. Though brief, the time between their first show and signing a recording contract was sufficient for Vain Machine to establish that the attention was justified; they managed to land two highly coveted gigs on the LA electronic music scene, opening for the legendary German electropop group, De/Vision, as well as for industrial icons, Die Krupps. Vain Machine released their debut album, Lost, on February 20, 2015. Featuring seven original tracks and five remixes by well-known alternative electronic groups; it is a cohesive, heavy, and immaculately produced collection. The title of their first album notwithstanding, Vain Machine certainly sounds like a band that knows exactly where they want to go and how best to get there. Speaking with me by phone from Los Angeles, Quinones and Baker talked about their journey so far and what’s on the road ahead.
called Barstow, out in the middle of nowhere. And I had an older sister that would bring back records from Los Angeles. It was back in like the mid '80s — when she would bring back Depeche Mode, The Cure, New Order, and Tears For Fears records — that I got interested in listening to electronic music. Then, when I was about 16 years old I was approached by a couple of kids about joining a band. I wanted to join the band, but I didn't know how to play any instruments. I told my mother I wanted to learn to play keyboard and so she took me to a local music shop and bought me a synthesizer. It was a Roland D20 and had a sequencer and a floppy drive. And one of the guys in that first band taught me how to play. And when the band broke up after about four years, he and I formed another band called Room 1202. We recorded a couple albums and put out some singles, and it was during that time that I met Beau. He did some remixes for one of our singles. When that band ended, I didn’t do anything for a couple years. Then I got a phone call from Beau about maybe doing something together. Did I read that you have only been together since 2013? Omar: We actually started talking about doing something together in 2011. We experimented a bit and went through some trial and error before we got to a really clear vision of how we wanted to sound and what the band’s image would be. And so yeah, it was in 2013 that we began to move forward with Vain Machine.
So there's just the two of you and Vain Machine has a very full sound. Is it challenging to recreate your sound live? Beau: No, it’s really not. I have a pretty standard playback set up using a laptop. And I kind of pull double duty playing drums as I play an acoustic drum set on some of our songs and then, on the more electronic dance songs like “Lost” and “Push” I play standing up on two pads, a floor tom, and a cymbal. And I have it set up so I can trigger the playback, as needed, from either set. Tell me how you divvy up job duties in the band and how you get that big Vain Machine sound. Beau: I’m sort of the producer, programmer and drummer and Omar is the lyricist and singer. Omar is also our songwriter, but we both work to get a song where we are both satisfied. As far as our sound, we have a PC based MIDI system for everything, with a good amount of outboard gear. I don't know if you would call me old school, but I still believe in MIDI and use MIDI-in, MIDI-out and record that way. I just prefer it to using plug-ins. I am very tactile and, especially when I’m designing, I like to actually put my hands on the control surfaces. It's a lot more appealing and works better for me if I can twist a knob or move a slider instead of just using my mouse. On drums, I do a combination. We use a drum program on which I do all of the programming. But I'll also sample my own drum sounds or sample something from around the studio Photo by Jake Várley at Mars Station www.fourculture.com 17 www.mars-station.co.uk
and I’ll just mix it in, and layer them. I'm a big fan of layering sound. I think that's why our songs have that big sound to them, because I'll just layer, and layer, and layer — basically I just layer the crap out of them until they are just really thick. How is Vain Machine different musically than what either of you had done before? What made you think you should work together? Beau: I was working in cover bands and just doing other projects in LA. And when we would go out to see shows I found myself thinking, “If I was in this band, I would have made that song sound like this.” It’s not that I was disappointed with the music so much as just thinking to myself, “What about the big snappy kick drums? Where are the gritty baselines?” And so for me, it was about being totally stalemated where I was musically and kind of suffocating, and wanting to do something original. And at the same time knowing from the working on the remixes for his previous band, that Omar writes great songs and he has a very unique voice. He doesn’t sound like every other EBM singer out there. When you hear him, you know it's him. And I just wanted to 18 www.fourculture.com
work with a vocalist who writes as well as Omar does, but also has a unique voice and attitude. And I thought that if we worked together, we could create something different and special. So that's when I reached out to Omar and we decided to get together and just see what we could do. Omar: Well, when I actually heard some of Beau’s demos, I was floored. It was like exactly the direction I would have wanted my previous band to move in. So I just knew from the beginning that I wanted it to work out. And once I knew I wanted to do this, then I put all of my energy and soul into it to ensure that it was going to be the best work that I could do. I wanted Beau to know I was serious, I was committed, and that this was something that we were go be doing for the long haul.
some time. And then they started following us on Twitter. So when we released some of our music on these various sites, and then posted on Twitter that we were getting ready to finalize and release our album, AnalogueTrash approached me. They are located in Manchester, UK, and asked if we wanted any help releasing the album in Europe. And of course, I thought it was a joke [laughs]. But then Adrian Thompson, who is the owner of AnalogueTrash, started corresponding with me and saying that they’d been following us for some time, thought we were really great, and really wanted to help us. So I approached Beau about it and … Beau: And I didn't believe him [laughs]. Omar: Yeah, he didn't believe me. But the more that we thought about it and looked at the pros and cons of everything, the more it seemed to be a good fit. It’s a small label and we're a small band. And it’s not a label that has a bunch of EBM or synthpop cookie cutter type bands. It has a very diverse roster and that was important to us. It just made sense. So, we signed and it's really been great.
Tell me about how the deal with AnalogueTrash Records came about. Vain Machine was still pretty new and hadn’t played a lot of shows yet, so how did you connect? Omar: It's kind of funny because we don't exactly know how they found us. Somehow they found us on SoundCloud or So tell me about opening for De/Vision ReverbNation and had been following us for in LA. How cool was that?
Omar: Well, it was really amazing. Around the time it was announced that De/ Vision was going to tour that year and had no tour support, I was corresponding with a guy named Reverend John about getting a show at Das Bunker in LA. He had told me our music was really good and we would do really well in that market, but we needed to do a few things – like get a website up and a photo shoot – to get a little more established. And then, while I was in London on business, I got an email from him asking if we wanted to open for De/Vision. I was speechless. And I remember calling Beau from London and saying, "Hey, you're not going to believe it…but we got the show.” Beau: And I didn't (laughs). Omar: And he didn't (laughs). I was completely ecstatic. It felt like we were moving in the right direction. I mean it was only our third live show and we were opening for De/Vision in front of a sold out crowd. It was amazing and it blew me away. What can fans expect for the rest of this year? Are there plans to do more shows, or a tour, or record new music? Omar: We have some shows coming up in LA. And we have some things that are still pending, nothing has been finalized yet, but we’re working on putting together a
small west coast tour. We're also currently working on our second album, which is something we will be focusing on this year. And we tentatively plan to release it in the summer of 2016. But it could be closer to the fall of 2016. What would you say Beau? Beau: I agree with you. It will be the summer or fall 2016 before we release another album, but we might release some singles in the meantime, yeah? Omar: Yeah. Oh, and we do have hopes to do something – some shows – in the UK, in the spring of next year, too. Now it’s time for a fun and awkward question (laughs). If Vain Machine were a mixed drink what would it be? Beau: Oh, that's a good one. I like that. Omar: I'll let Beau handle that one. I’m not a big drinker. Beau: If Vain Machine was a mixed drink or a bar drink, what would it be? Oh man. Wow. It would be something that you don't see sneaking up on you by the time you're done drinking it. But then at the end of the night it knocks you on your ass. That's what it would be. Definitely. But what would that be? Omar, what knocks you on your butt? Omar: I'll probably need to install a bartender app to figure that out (laughs).
Beau: Let's see. You know, a Boiler Maker is pretty nasty [laughs]. It’s nothing too fancy, just beer and whiskey. And that fits because we're kind of just casual guys. It’s a glass of beer that you drop a shot of whiskey in. It tastes good and is easy going down, but it sneaks up on you by the end of the night and knocks you on your ass. Yeah, absolutely it’s a Boiler Maker. Omar: There you go. Okay, cool. A Boiler Maker it is, then (laughs). Last question: What are your four favorite things, the four things you couldn't, or just don't want to live without? Beau: Okay. Four things. My family. My drums and my music, but if I say music, wouldn’t that include drums? I’ll add tacos [laughs] and as I drink a lot of coffee, I’ll say that too. So let’s go with my family, music, coffee and tacos. Omar: Tacos, that’s great (laughs). Man, that's a hard one. Well definitely family is one thing that I can't live without. And I definitely can't live without music. And I think you have to have books. Not specific books, but just books in general. And too, I love watching movies. So my four things are my family, music, books, and movies.
FROM A-Z AND BACK AGAIN: THE RETURN OF ASH BY PAUL DAV I ES
PHOTOGRAPH BY ALEX LAKE
Sat in the main keyboard room in his Chelsea studio, Manhattan, Tim Wheeler seems pretty laidback a month ahead of the release of Kablammo!, the sixth album by Ash. It’s been a while, eight years in fact, since their last album, Twilight of the Innocents and after spending a whole year releasing a single every two weeks (the A-Z series of 2009) it seems that the album format is now back in favour with the band. “Since we did our singles series, I guess I fell back in love with albums,” he reveals. “It’s bounced back in an interesting way, you know, the re-emergence of the ‘album’ with vinyl.” Long-term fans are delighted at this change in attitude but in this time, Tim himself has released a Christmas album with Emmy the Great as well as solo album, Lost Domain last year. “I enjoyed the process of doing those and I thought if Ash is going to make another album then it has to stand up. There was actually quite a lot of pressure in making it. “A-Z was all about exploring different things and we enjoyed the liberty of just doing singles, where it didn’t have to be cohesive, but returning to the album format we thought this has to work as a whole. We also wanted to tap into the Ash sound of our early records, that three-piece rock band.” This last point is evident in Kablammo! right from the start. The first three songs instantly grab you, sounding like classic Ash singles. They are energetic, infectious, Ash being Ash. There’s a sense of nostalgia with any ‘comeback’ but with song titles like “Bring Back the Summer” and lines like ‘Born in the wrong place’ (from “Machinery”) I wonder if this is a deliberate intention or even a main theme on the album. “Yeah, I wanted there to be a bit of nostalgia in there because we were looking back, you know, like going back and looking at our earlier records. We had a lot of summer songs like “Oh yeah” and “Walking Barefoot”, so “Bring back the summer” kind of taps in to that. Then there’s kind of 70s pop stuff in there that we love like “Evil Knievel”, that ties in nicely with the Jackie Chan fixation on “Kung Fu”. I wanted there to be lots of little secret nods. Even on the guitar solo for “Moondust”, it starts with the first few notes from the chorus melody of “Girl From Mars” so I was sneaking in old melodies and things like that on purpose. It’s fun to look back.” When your career has spanned over twenty years with two UK Number One albums you have every right to borrow from yourself. Despite this, Kablammo! is not just an Ash-by-numbers type album as the group has clearly evolved over time. Since the last album much has changed in music in terms of promotion, production and technology so has this changed the approach to recording the Ash sound? “We’ve been recording with computers ever since, probably 2001 so we have learned when you can use them too much and with this album we wanted to try to get the organic sound and approach it the same way as when we recorded to tape. We are lucky we got to make albums when tape was a thing. There’s like, limitations with it but those limitations are kind of like our strengths as well. “Do I still learn new things with each release? Oh yeah, yeah, definitely. The singing on this record I approached differently. I was 22 www.fourculture.com
trying for the most part go back to the keys that I used to sing in early on. I used to sing a bit lower but then I tried to push myself harder and sing higher for quite a few years but with this one I was trying to go to where my voice goes best.” As part of the build up to album release, Ash used crowdfunding platform PledgeMusic to help promote the album with a range of fan perks, one of which was the chance to provide backing vocals on one of the tracks. “Yeah, it didn’t make it on the record though we have got it in our back pocket for something later down the line but we did a lot of handclaps and stomps on “Go! Fight! Win!” with a good crowd of people from Pledge. We had three girls in New York doing the backing vocal on this song and it worked better as a cheerleader type thing rather than a crowd so we decided artistically to go with that. “Pledge is great, it’s very cool when you link up with your fans and great to have them be part of the process and to see the excitement. They were hearing the string sessions live which is a really special moment of the record so it was nice to share.” Currently based in Brooklyn, Tim has been living in America for ten years. Bassist Mark also lives in America whereas drummer Rick is in Scotland. It’s a world away from the school leavers from Northern Ireland who came onto the scene with their debut release in 1994. Tim still goes back home about five times a year, often when on tour or while visiting London but what is it about New York that has made him stay there since he moved there in his late twenties? “One thing I think is that it’s a city where you don’t quite have to get old the same way as in the UK. I don’t know, you get all sorts of hipsters in their forties acting like they’re twenty and it seems perfectly acceptable! I think maybe that was one attraction. “I love the restaurants, the lifestyle...I have always liked the American way of going about things...most things. There’s a very creative energy here and I’ve always found it very inspiring. I used to come to New York on trips when I wanted to reinvigorate my mind and get inspired again so living here is really great. You meet so many talented people, I mean they might be a barista but they are also an amazing actor. And people have to make real sacrifices to live here as well as it’s really expensive and it’s quite a tough place.” Although he is living in America, chart success for Ash has not been as forthcoming in the States as in the UK. The notion of ‘breaking America’ is often seen as a big deal for UK acts but it isn’t really a priority it seems for Tim and Ash. “I think that was another attraction actually when I moved here. I didn’t get the same attention as when I lived in London so I can relax more and be myself without being self-conscious and hassled all the time. You can go out for a drink without getting bugged
PHOTOGRAPH BY ALEX JOHN BECK
which was appealing at the time. “We love touring America. I have always wanted to get a fanbase here and the fans that we do have here are very hardcore, they know everything, so we are working on getting more of them!” As well as the achievements of chart positions, one of the milestones for Ash is the Ivor Novello award in 2001 for song “Shining Light”. As possibly their best-known work I wonder if there is another song that Tim thinks is more deserving of praise. “Not really, I think Shining Light probably is the best one I’ve written actually...so far. I think just in terms of it all coming together melodically and lyrically. That sort of conveys a feeling really well so I’m always trying to live up to that one. I don’t have a problem with it though. I really like our geeky stuff as well but I am always trying to push myself as a songwriter and try to discover something new.” Ash is a hard group to pigeonhole. Their new album, while sounding unmistakably Ash still showcases several genres and in the case of “Dispatch” there are three genres in one song. Ash are not really truly rock, pop or punk, yet somehow they are still all three. They emerged in the UK at a time when Britpop was at its peak yet they didn’t really fit into that crowd. “No – the only thing we had in common with that was that we
had the same producer as Oasis for the first few records so I think 1977 has similarly loud tambourines on a few songs! “We were always definitely a lot more influenced by American rock and were proud of it so we were into our Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr and Nirvana. “I guess the thing we are most known for is uptempo, melodic punk-pop. We can have our really rocking moments but I think we have got some pretty good ballads as well. When live we tend to err towards the really fast songs played twice as fast as they were recorded. I once saw the Buzzcocks play live and I was like ‘Oh my God, we sound so much like them’ you know when we play live!” These older artists have influenced Ash but I note from the studio surroundings that Tim is (in his words) a “synth nerd” as well as being a guitarist. There was more exploration on the A-Z series as well as his solo records so have his influences changed? I ask what new bands he is listening to. “I really like Alvvays from Canada, I really like their indie pop sound and they have great melodies and lyrics. I was loving that Ty Segall record from last year. I love how he’s doing a really early 70s Bowie sound. He’s one of those San Fran psych-pop kind of guys same kind of scene as Thee Oh Sees. That’s a great guitar record.” Ash release their sixth album, Kablammo! on May 25.
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PHOTOGRAPH BY SHERVIN LAINEZ
BY M A RGUER ITE O’CO NNELL
26 www.fourculture.com PHOTOGRAPH BY SHERVIN LAINEZ
lot has been written about Amanda Palmer, the singer-songwriter who co-founded the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls and then, after a very public break with her record label, launched her own successful solo career. She has been called “The Social Media Queen of Rock-n-Roll” for her unusually intimate relationship with her fans — she has daily, hands-on engagement with them on various social media. Her strong relationship with her fans also led to her title as an “International Crowdfunding Phenomenon” when she funded her second solo album, Theatre is Evil, through a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign in 2012 (the album debuted in the Billboard Top 10). And it was also her grassroots-style relationship with that community of fans that sparked a nasty controversy in the aftermath of the Kickstarter campaign — opportunist, attention whore, and digital panhandler are just a few names she was called — when in the same grassroots spirit she sought volunteer musicians to play with her band in some cities on the tour promoting the album. Tension around the issue of asking for and receiving help led to her giving a “TED Talk” in 2013 that has been viewed more than 6 million times worldwide. And now Amanda Palmer is also a best-selling author. Her “Ted Talk” inspired book, The Art of Asking was published in November 2014. After spending so much energy over the last few years on Internet controversies, her TED talk, writing her book, and a book tour, Amanda just wanted to once again connect and share music with the community of fans that she holds dear. This desire felt all the more urgent because she and husband Neil Gaiman are expecting their first child together in September and she won’t be touring for a while after the baby arrives. So Amanda set out on the just completed “Barefoot-In-The-Kitchen” tour — a series of intimate solo shows in select U.S. cities — and is preparing to start “The Art of Asking” tour at the end of May in the U.K. Amanda has also recently undertaken a new crowdfunding campaign on Patreon, and at this time already has 4535 patrons who have pledged a combined total of $30,770.09 for each of her future artistic creations. Amanda and I spoke by phone as she travelled to Dallas for the last show of her U.S. tour. We had an awesome, wide-ranging conversation about music, touring, impending motherhood, being a successful female artist in the music industry today, cuddling, and more. Talking to Amanda was an amazing experience. She is a woman who has strong opinions and speaks her mind. But our conversation also revealed a woman who is thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, grounded and genuine. Oh, and she has a wicked sense of humor. Enjoy! www.fourculture.com 27
How has your current tour been going and how does it feel to be on the road and performing again? Great! The most interesting thing, and something I didn't actually think about when I set up the tour, is that some of the towns on this tour, like DC, Atlanta, and Austin last night, are places I've played in lots of times and I have a real ongoing relationship with the fans there. But there were a couple cities that I'd never played before, like Raleigh and Richmond, and so when I sat down in front of like 700 people I realized that these people don't actually know me. It's a totally different type of relationship than when I play in a town where everyone already knows the drill and we start out already all lubed up (laughs). So yeah, that's been interesting. Speaking of knowing the drill…what is the cuddle room? On Twitter last night you told a fan who was sitting in her car outside the Austin venue to go directly to the cuddle room when she got inside. And I didn’t know what that meant. There are some fans in Austin who started a company that basically offers cuddling sessions. It’s similar to how people get massage therapy, but this is cuddle therapy. This fan reached out to me saying that she had started a business and I invited her to come to the venue, set up and cuddle people because I know my fans would be into it (laughs). And she did. She brought like four other cuddling experts, they set up in a VIP room at the theater, and it was fucking awesome! And I actually was able to find out about that fan at the end of the night because I went up to get my own cuddle and to meet and talk to these girls. Apparently the fan had some kind of anxiety disorder and when I tweeted her encouragement to get out of her car, go up to the cuddle room, and let them take care of her, she did. And they did! And that's a beautiful night when something like that happens. Everyone needs a cuddle. I need a cuddle. I'm a pregnant lady on tour and I fucking ate that cuddle up last night. Speaking of being pregnant, how are you feeling? To be honest, I'm really tired. It's kind of surreal and interesting. I have noticed that as soon as you announce you’re pregnant, women (and a few men) attack you with benevolent birth advice and birth stories. It's like you are being inducted to a cult (laughs). But I'm basically doing what I always do in life which is taking a perspective somewhere between pessimism and realism, so I can be happily surprised if it's not that bad. 28 www.fourculture.com
“Look at any woman who has achieved any level of real success and it is unfortunately a rule of how the universe works: if you are a successful woman, you are by definition, a target.” (Laughs) The Dresden Dolls appeared at Record Store Day 2015 in New York, which is the first time in a while that you and Brian have played together. Tell me about the decision for you and Brian to go your separate ways and do other things. Oh, that is really interesting. I didn't know what to expect, but I did know that Brian and I really burned each other out. We toured practically non-stop for about 4 years. If we weren't on a tour of Europe, we were on a tour of the States, or we are on our way to Australia. And even when we would have these little pockets of time at home, we usually spent that time doing a project or a recording. And the thing about rock-n-roll is that you've got no boss. There is no one that tells you to take a break, especially when the band is exploding. And especially when we were doing things our own way and not the mainstream route — it was just tour and connect with people, tour and connect with people, and take every possible gig so that people could see what we did. And always spend extra time, always sign after shows, and always take every interview. It's just really enticing to say yes to everything and we basically did say yes to everything for 4 or 5 years. But we also exhausted each other and ourselves. We burned out individually and as a duo, to the point that when we wrapped up touring on our second label album, we were both really sick of the grind. We weren't sick of making music or being on stage, but we were sick of trying to negotiate with each other. I think a lot of that was due to the stress of the road and the fact that we had drained our lives of any semblance of normality and were living full time on a tour bus. Real life was starting to seem like a foreign concept and I think the stress of all that meant we needed a break. But I wanted to keep writing and recording, and what was originally supposed to be a tiny little side project, sort of accidentally blew up because Ben Folds came knocking on my door and said, “Hey, if you are working on a solo record, I would love to produce it.” What was going to be a teeny budget, one week recording project, turned into a year long project with Ben and orchestras, guitarists, drummers, collaborators, horns and recording studios; all the while I’m getting more and more attached to creating the perfect solo record. And like that, I was off and running on my own. The Dresden Dolls
sort of looked like a chapter that was going to stay closed for a while, but hopefully get reopened when the two of us had done enough healing and soul searching and weren't just defining ourselves by this one band, which was part of what was crushing us. And Brian went out and did really well for himself. He joined a bunch of different bands — he's drumming for the Violent Femmes now. And I kept working on my solo stuff and occasionally Brian and I get together and do a little tour here and there, and feel each other out. So The Dresden Dolls aren’t broken up. They’re on some kind of…extended hybrid/hiatus? Yeah. It wasn't exactly a break up. It wasn't a “Fuck you. Fuck you. No, fuck you, I'm never talking to you again” kind of thing. We were both just really done trying to negotiate. If you can imagine working full time with a person that you aren’t married to and you're living in an apartment together — forever — that is like 5 x 20 feet (laughs). That's the amount of stress that is on a touring musician. You literally do not get a second away from each other and it can drive people crazy. Tell me what the transition was like for you to go from performing as part of The Dresden Dolls to being a solo artist? It’s funny because I’ve actually been thinking about that while on this tour. I didn't have a solo career before we started The Dresden Dolls. I had a little bit of experience playing my songs on piano once or twice a year with a live audience in a café or with friends at a party. But I hadn't toured and I hadn't really turned into a hard-core entertainer yet. I was still shy and nervous on stage, and by shy I mean I hadn't learned yet how to communicate with an audience. Yeah, my songs were still very angsty and aggressive, but I was very introverted about it. I would get up there, pound away, scream, wail, and then flee backstage. The reason The Dresden Dolls were so magic is that Brian actually complemented me so well; he brought so much life to the songs that I wrote, and he and I were such a great stage team. People said it was like watching people have sex on stage, but without the sex. We were so tuned into each other. I thought going solo would kind of be like touring with The Dresden Dolls, only without
PHOTOGRAPH BY KAMBRIEL
PHOTOGRAPH BY SHERVIN LAINEZ
the drums. And what I hadn’t realized was that it’s an entirely different feeling being on stage alone, with just the piano. Being in a band is kind of like being in a gang; it’s never just you on stage. Brian wasn’t just a drummer in the background. He shared the spotlight — we were basically co-front men. And readjusting everything was challenging. Even just readjusting everything sonically was like, “Oh, I can't just play the piano part and subtract the drums if I'm going to play this Dresden Doll song while I am on tour. I need to actually re-orchestrate it and make sure it is filling the whole space.” I’d like to talk about your take on why controversy has erupted around you over the years. Do you think that controversy happens around you because you are outspoken? Or because you are a successful woman in what is essentially still a man's industry? Or because you refuse to follow what some consider "the unspoken rules" of doing business? I think the answer is Yes, Yes, and Yes (laughs). (Laughs) I mean you have rejected the commonly accepted definition of, and path to success for a recording star. And yet here you are, a successful recording artist, performer, public speaker, and author, and you’ve done it on your own terms. So you’re kind of rocking the boat and making people uncomfortable, yeah? Exactly, I mean it's a metaphor for all of life isn't it? I really had to confront my own naiveté about this when I was starting out in this business. I went into performing just assuming that everyone defines success the way I define it and that the money is not the most important thing. That what’s most important is that you have enough, you are happy, you get to connect with the people that you want, and you get to enjoy your shows. If you achieve some measure of success and are happy doing what you are doing, if you have work and love your job, and if you are happy with your collaborators, then that's the hard-core definition of success. You can't make decisions based just on the money if you want to stay a happy artist and a happy person. And I kind of assumed everybody followed that philosophy. I didn't realize how naive that assumption was. (Laughs) I mean like my walking into Roadrunner Records and going, "Oh my god, look at all these wonderful people who are helping all these artists achieve their dream." Without realizing that those guys were all sweating over whether they were actually going to make their quarter or not. And not even realizing how cutthroat and bottom dollar focused the www.fourculture.com 31
record industry is. It astounded me to find out how wrong I was, and how weird my definition of success looked to the people who couldn't understand the decisions I was making to not chase the money; believing if we made decisions based on trying to be “the flavor of the week” or trying to mold our music or image so we could get on magazine covers, then people would see right through us and we would have no audience. And we needed an audience if we were going to make money and survive, so we couldn't do that. But in reality, we could have done that. We could have gone and made pop music. Maybe we could be rolling around in money if we had taken our songs and found the right producers and made great dance tracks. But that wasn't who we were and it just seemed silly. When you look at the basic tenets of crowdfunding and you look at how important personal relationships and connections are to you as a person and as a performer, it isn’t that hard to surmise that you probably would have been a crowdfunding phenomenon whether websites like Kickstarter existed, or not. But I do wonder if being a woman who is really successful at crowdfunding, or even just a woman who is really successful in general, is a double-edged sword? Oh yeah, just in being a successful woman. I mean look at Madonna. Look at any woman who has achieved any level of real success and it is unfortunately a rule of how the universe works: if you are a successful woman, you are by definition, a target. And you just have to take it as part of the job. And it is an unfortunate part of the job. It makes people who are used to working within a given system so uncomfortable to see a successful woman. It just rattles the core of their existence. And a woman who is successful, but is not making her money by the corporate world's standards; who is not saying, "I'm a successful super model and I'm on the cover of Sports Illustrated, making three million dollars per photo shoot" but rather, “I'm successful because I'm NOT doing that?” That is what really pisses people off (laughs). A study in the UK last year that found that individual women had a much higher success rate at crowdfunding than did men. And I think one possible reason for that is that women are generally better at community and connecting through human emotions. But I think too, crowdfunding has opened up opportunities for women to say, “Oh, I get it. I don't need a label. I don't need a giant corporate hand to lift me up above the glass ceiling. I can just walk up there on my own if I ask my community to help me.” 32 www.fourculture.com
And for women who have built strong communities - and that is a lot of women – it is empowering to have the ability to use those tools to say – “Hey community, you already know me, trust me, and believe in me. I have this thing I want to do, but I need the capital to do it. Will you help me?” And have the community say, “Yes.” I think a combination of those two things accounts for the amount of female success in crowdfunding. But you know, people get uncomfortable when all of sudden you have women owning their own path to success. So yeah, crowdfunding can be just another target for criticism of successful women. Why do you think there was so much anger after the Kickstarter campaign for your album when you reached out to your fan base and invited musicians in each town to volunteer to perform with you and your band? It felt like all of a sudden there was an "asking police”- a self-appointed group that wants to decide when an artist has become too successful to ask for help from fans. It is a continuing issue in the arts community. Money for the arts is disappearing, grants are going away, symphony halls and dance companies are closing their doors, and all the people that were hoping to have a career in the arts are just having doors slammed in their faces because the money has dried up. People are worried about where the money will come from if they decide to be a full time musician, or a full time photographer, or a full time journalist - especially when there are so many people out there who are willing to work for very little, or for free. I see a controversy a week on this topic. Just recently the band Garbage wanted to put out an art book celebrating 20 years of the band, but they didn't have the budget to do so if they had to pay for all the photos. So they reached out to their fan base for photos anyone wanted to share. And as part of this effort the band also sent an email to all the photographers they'd ever worked with. And one of the professional photographers absolutely ripped them. It was a paid shoot they did 15 years ago and they asked if he would donate the photos to the book and the guy just went ballistic. And you can totally see both sides of this. You can see why it is offensive to a photographer who is barely making a living to be asked by a successful rock band to give his work for free. But you can also see it from the band's point of view of that “This thing is either going to happen or it's not. If you want it to happen, then please contribute.” There's a real interesting parallel between what they are doing and what I did after the Kickstarter. It's like, “This thing is either going to exist because I crowd sourced
it or it isn't. And I'm happy either way, but what do you guys want? You won’t get paid $15.00 an hour for being at the barn raising, but you are going to get to hang out, drink, eat, and dance if you do. Oh, and you don't have to come to the barn raising. You could just not come (laughs).” And I think part of what is making people so testy nowadays is making a living is really hard, and there are a gazillion artists and everybody is looking at the internet and digital distribution and going, “Holy fuck, how am I going to get paid? How will artists start out?” But remember, The Dresden Dolls started out doing what a lot of bands do — we didn't get paid for a gig until we had been playing together for over a year. We played our friends' parties, we played bars for free and for drink tickets, we put together our own shows, we took every non-paying gig so we could build a fan base, and then slowly but surely we got to where we were going. We just kept working, and working, and working until eventually the money began to flow. But if you went back to the year 2000 and The Dresden Dolls were like, "Fuck that. We're not going to play a gig without getting paid. We're musicians." Then The Dresden Dolls would never have existed after the year 2000 (laughs). We never would have gotten a job. So you really have to look at it from both sides. And it is not just a problem in the arts community. These days everybody seems to have an opinion on what is or isn’t the right thing to do and expresses those opinions loudly. Something to keep in mind about crowdfunding is that the relationship is consensual and everyone has a choice. In the art and music world right now, you see people attacking each other with an incredible amount of judgment. "This artist is making the right choice." "This artist is making the wrong choice." In the case of the photographer and Garbage, the most important thing at the end of the day is that everybody's choice be respected and that the relationship always be consensual. So Garbage has every right to ask for photographs. And the photographer has every right to say, “No. I don't want to be involved.” And it doesn't have to turn in to a shouting match over who's the asshole. Because the truth is that they can both be right. The problem comes in when the "asking police" or the moral police jump on a situation and determine who is ethical and who isn't. Both sides can be ethical and both need to be respected for making the choice that is right for them, according to their own definition of success and how they want to run their lives. And I see this all over the music industry, especially with everyone screaming
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34 www.fourculture.com PHOTOGRAPH BY KYLE CASSIDY
about streaming, digital content, Spotify, YouTube and about what content should be locked up. The truth is that it's a mess. But at the end of the day, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by criticizing artists for their choices. Taylor Swift, Trent Reznor, and I are not going to make the same choices. We just aren’t. So can’t we expand our philosophy to assume that Taylor Swift's decisions are good for her and mine are good for me and Trent Reznor's are good for him, without it meaning that one of us is right and winning, and the others aren’t? That is what I would love to see happen in the music business. Because honestly, it feels like we are moving further and further away from that particular utopia. Tell me about the new crowdfunding campaign, Patreon. Patreon is a new version of crowdfunding that is like Kickstarter, but it is ongoing. Instead of pledging money for one project, I'm asking fans to commit in an ongoing subscription type way and I will charge them every time I release content. It's a bigger commitment and more trust than on Kickstarter, but fans can cap their pledge at a monthly limit. So there is never sticker shock if I decide to release 100 pieces of content in one month. It makes me really proud of my fan base and our relationship that they trust me enough to do this. How does content get defined for purposes of activating a Patreon donation? The artist defines it. But like with everything else in my career, there is an ongoing conversation between my community and I. So if one day I decide content is my drawing a penis on the back of a napkin in a diner, taking a photo of it and uploading it for everyone to see, and then I charge everybody for it? Chances are pretty good I'll see a lot of people saying, “Amanda…why did you do that?” (laughs) But if I write a song and record it — even if it's not the best song I've ever written — if I put the effort in to record and release it and then I charge the fans, they may not love the song, but they love the fact that I wrote a song and recorded it in the studio. And that's really the biggest difference between me and pop star X, whose fans are looking at them as a factory that might produce something they might enjoy. The people backing me like me, they believe in me, they want to support me as an artist, and I've given them enough in the past that they feel it is worth whatever they give me now. And that being said, I am sure that as I move through this experience at Patreon, there is going to be some backlash to
some of the choices I make. But I think that's part of the process. I mean if 4,000 people were absolutely happy with every move and every decision I made, I'd be a little surprised. In fact, I'd almost be disappointed. Because then I would feel like they weren't thinking, feeling, intelligent human beings giving honest feedback on what I'm doing. So once again it comes down to the relationship and trust between artist and fans. Fans have the right to support artists they trust and to say, “This is my choice. This is what I want to do. Whether she draws a picture of a penis or something else, we choose to trust Amanda will not take advantage.” (Laughs) Right, but just think if it were an animation of a penis, that's a lot of work. And it doesn't just take a lot of work to execute animating the penis, but it is a lifetime of experience for me to understand how a penis moves and expands and shrinks and how do you put a price on that? I mean, really? (Laughs) Okay then…tell me about being asked to open for Morrissey this summer. He's a hero of mine. And so interesting to me because he is another huge maverick in the music industry that clearly does not like being told what to do by anyone. And he's really been through the music industry wringer two or three times in his own way. He is a super emotional artist who desperately wants to connect with his fans and perform. In fact, I don’t think his definition of success is all that far off from mine. He's a brilliant poet and a brilliant songwriter who is in love with love, and in love with his relationship with his own fans. And he has taken a brutal beating and truckloads of criticism from the music press and from the world at large. And it may be easy to criticize, but no one can do it like he does. He is completely unique. My favorite songs of his are still the ones I heard when I was a teenager in which he said the unsayable — in which he said things I didn't know you were even allowed to say. I am opening for him on the last night of his tour and that's exciting, because the last night of tour is like nothing else. You're not conserving any energy, you're not saving your voice, and you can leave it all on the stage. If you had one piece of advice you could give a young artist who is not as fearless, or not as confident as you, what would it be? Probably, don't be afraid to be afraid. In truth, I'm still afraid all the time. I think the trick is to understand that it is not about fear-
lessness; it's not like you will get to a certain point in your career as an artist and all of a sudden the fear goes away. It never goes away. You just learn how to manage it. And on a good day if you’re lucky, you learn how to embrace it and transform it into art. Likewise, the outer critics and your own inner critics never go away; you learn to make friends with them. You learn to acknowledge your inner critic voice when it’s saying you’re not good enough or you’re not working hard enough, and then turn the volume down. Or maybe you grab it by the horns and turn it into a song. And you do the same with the critics on the outside. Whether it's peers, the Internet, or critics, they will never go away. Their job is to criticize and you have to learn to say, “Oh right, that's just part of the job. This is the day that I get the bad review.” You can score a perfect 100, make a perfect record, and still watch it get panned in the newspaper. But if you can take the perspective that the whole thing is an eco-system, then the criticism hurts less and is easier to take. The only solution is to keep working; taking the negative energy and pain and making positive energy and art from it. What is your favorite dessert? I'm a chocolate fan. I like nice dark rich chocolate. I'm not a fan of super, super sugary candy-like things, but I'm a real chocolate fan. What songs/albums/artists are on your favorites playlist right now? Oh my god: John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts is on 24/7. I can’t get enough of that album and his songwriting; he’s my alltime new favorite. Highly recommending: “GMF” and “Glacier.” I’m also listening to a lot of podcasts lately, since I’m thinking about starting my own, and the art of radiolistening is fascinating to me. “This American Life” has been on non-stop while I lay my tired pregnant bones down to bed early If you could write your own epitaph or if there was one thing you wish you could be remembered for, what would it be? That's your job. (Laughs) I'm not even superstitious, but I can't write my own epitaph. Really, that has to be someone else's job. But I would like to be remembered fondly. I would like to leave here having done more good than bad. I always like to end an interview by asking what are the four things you couldn’t – or just don’t way to – live without? Coffee. Wine. Cuddling. Music.
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Fourculture is proud to announce its first music compilation featuring 20 amazing independent artists from around the globe
FEATURED ARTISTS: Noblesse Oblige
My Personal Murderer
The Autumn Stones
Proceeds from Fourculture: Beyond the Mainstream will support OnAirTunes.com, the network who hosts Fourculture Radio. 36 www.fourculture.com
East Village Bar BY WILLIAM DORESKI
The famous hydrogen jukebox lit like a slab of Times Square, slabbed and capped with white light and bulging with musical pride. An overcoat arm, unfocused, angles across the picture plane. To the left, a grumpy man propped at a table on which a glass of something toxic sneers. Two glasses. The spectacled woman with heaped hair expects him to confront the jukebox about to explode with music so intense they can’t plead too old to hear it— the city ringing in their ears.
Join the Navy: Ask Me about It BY WILLIAM DORESKI
The bunting looks emaciated, hanging there with stars above and stripes dangling. Two desks leer across a gap too wide for puberty to negotiate. Through the open door we spot feet atop one desk, ankles crossed for emphasis. The navy goes to sea, out to sea, far away to sea, but the tides don’t reach this dusty office, don’t ebb and leave bony, pebbled décor to sport in ripples along the carpet. We won’t join the navy today. We won’t join the navy tomorrow. We’ll join when the icecaps melt and these desks buoy on gray chop and the ankles uncross themselves and the latent seaman, happy at last, swims upright and salutes.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and teaches at Keene State College. His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.
http://williamdoreski.blogspot.com/ www.fourculture.com 37
FEMME FACADE BY THE A RTI ST D
RTANT. I don't know if PO IM IS T AR ng yi sa as I've been quoted blesse Oblige. No of y na Re rie le Va an th r anyone knows that bette e paints, directs, DJs, Sh s. rm fo t es tru e th of l al Val is an artist in s honored with wa I n, rli Be in d se Ba s. ire sp teaches, writes, and in ench Caribbean self Fr us lo bu fa is th e at ig st ve being able to in avors as FEMME FACADE. de en r he s us sc di d an t tis taught ar www.fourculture.com 39
It is a rare moment when I meet someone who embodies art in all of their pores. As a multi-talented performing artist, painter, director and voodoo priestess it would appear that you live ART. From where does this all come? Has it always been this way or did you one day discover the being you are today? Maybe it is simply my way to look at the world. I see it full of possibilities, so there’s many ways to express what you feel, explore unknown corners, surprise yourself, take risks. Art in all its forms has always fascinated me. I was always curious about trying new things and following my instinct. For me, being an artist means being free and completely open... challenging a given reality and using imagination to create your own world. I guess I was lucky enough to be encouraged from an early age to be myself without having to fit a certain mould. Your paintings are deeply emotional to me. I see a lot of faces — the expressions and deep eyes. What part of your spirit is displayed on your canvas? I paint portraits of friends, people I know or imaginary people. I also get requests from people from all over the world who send me their photo to make their portrait. I love the challenge. I find it very hard to get away from the human face as I find it the most exciting subject. There is a complexity and depth in the human face that I can never get tired of. I love looking at people’s faces...they express so much beauty, and emotion. A human face touches me more than anything else. I adore your electro art pop as half of Noblesse Oblige. One of my favorite songs is “Mata Hari”. In it you tell us you are Mata Hari and I have absolutely no doubt of this. When I look through your art, your visions and productions, I see a strong mystical woman. What keeps you holding your head high as that strong woman? I hope that, even if only in a small capacity, I encourage other women and people in general to be themselves, explore their true identity without feeling obliged to conform. I despise the way society forces you to make choices in order to be accepted. The media tells you what you want and what you need by brainwashing you with images of superficial materialistic happiness. Society sells you meaningless goals that will give you a fake sense of ‘belonging’. Living life to the fullest, trying to understand the world is not something you can buy with a credit card. www.fourculture.com 41
I've seen it mentioned several times that you are a Voodoo Priestess. Can you elaborate on your background as such? For Malady, the third album from Noblesse Oblige, we decided to explore spirituality and spent quite some time reflecting on the subject, which brought me back to my teenage years in Martiniquewhere I came into close contact with a voodoo priestess who lived next door to me. At the time I learnt a lot about her practice. For the live shows presenting “Malady”, I taught myself how to get into a trance and perform voodoo rituals which I then turned into a full length theatre show called “My Blood Is Thicker Than Yours”. Your audience finds you striking and unique in both image and thought. Do you find yourself very striking or is this just your normal? Have you ever freaked
yourself out with a particular look or photograph? (laughs) This is very funny! I am aware that people notice me and find me unusual because I don’t try to look like any one else. I always do my own hair and make up and I collect vintage clothes and mix them with things I find or things that belonged to my mum. I enjoy creating my personal style. I get inspiration from everything around me but then I adapt it to my own body and mood of the day. Femme Facade regularly channels you flirting with notions of identity & insanity. I've often found people out there in a world of normality are misinformed when it comes to both. What do you most wish people knew about identity & insanity? Respecting your own identity is being
true to yourself. Insanity is subjective. You not only teach through your art by simply being, but you are a voice coach and have taught acting classes. What is the hardest barrier for people to break through when freeing themselves into the arts? You have to find pleasure! Be ambitious but enjoy who you are and discover your own strength. What does Valerie do when she's relaxing on a calm afternoon at home? There is nothing more enjoyable than being creative. I love spending hours drawing and playing piano. I’m teaching myself to play guitar and I write, I read and dance around naked. I love cooking and dressing up. I practice Body Weather — a dance technique from Japan that keeps your body flexible, strong and coordinated. www.fourculture.com 45
A Battle with a Name BY SA M A H A LI
We lose battles everyday. Some battles are not worth the fight and some arguments aren’t worth the energy. We need to decide what battles we want to take on and why it’s important. What does it mean to us? How does it affect our lives? Saying my name is a battle I’ve accepted but haven’t decided if it’s worth the fight. “Smah” My name is a refugee in its own country. I have become numb to the pain inflicted on my name because it is all I have ever known. My name has become an unwanted immigrant based on the circumstances of my life. It was misplaced from its home, shipped to plantations, and branded with an identity it never wanted. Skin, stained with Western ink, soaking deeper and deeper until the poison hits its ripe blood. The blood in my name has turned into a fake shade of black, but not the black that matches my skin, a black that turns the ample earth into meager tar. “Som-ah” I was the black dot that survived the ruthless whiteout pen in my juvenile days. I managed to sneak through. I was the accepted imperfection. Teachers tolerated my melanin abnormality but could not accept the revolution in my name. Years of failed attempts and mispronunciations prompted me to change my name’s culture and since then it has been a foster child crying and cursing the parent that abandoned it.
a future of acceptance. My name grows strong and healthy as the robust tongues of my extended family and mother water its sweet melody to the tar-broken earth, ready to give way for a flower to bloom. It’s when the fruitful season of heritage ends that my name becomes frail again, desperately awaiting the next season to come and save it from its weak depression. And I would love to prolong this season with new acquaintances but cold bursts of old friends return and prevent any progress from being made. Allowing my name to thrive in its natural form only works if everyone around me calls me by my ‘new’ name – the flower I wish I could watch grow but have never seen bloom.
Samah My name is a cultural name, endowed with gold and dhiras and sun kissed afternoons at the masjid. Intimidating to speakers with feeble tongues, a firm, cultured tongue knows how to hover behind front teeth, lips opening and closing like a chest, locking away the secret syllable of my name. The S is the ocean waves that connect my motherland and me together. The A’s are Arabic boat anchors bearing the weight of my heritage as I travel between my new coun“Summer” try and old. The M misbehaves in people’s mouths and emphasizes I trip, slip, stumble when I pronounce my name. I have to get the presence of another language at work. The H is airy, wind blowthe accent right. Be as Eurocentric as you can be. I bend ing clouds through an unconstrained sky, soft enough for movemy name to the point where I’m surprised the Arabic calligraphy ment but never breaks the delicacy of my name. doesn’t snap. How the letters don’t melt into a swamp of ink, rather shrink into a weaker language, a weaker dialect. Samah But sometimes it does snap. Sounding out my name breaks name reeks of sundried toes fresh from the Indian Ocean. every meaning and strips the two syllables of its heritage. My name TheMy S brings me back to Kenya. The A’s anchor my boat. The M has been butchered into syllables, tones, pronunciations where I plays in my family’s mouth. The H blows Swahili trimmings through have accepted the shattered letters that cut my tongue as they exit the curls of my name. The sun kisses my beaten name every time my mouth. My name has become too soft and too weak and my she pronounces it. Shamis means sun in Arabic. Shamis is my strong tongue feels undernourished after every introduction. mother’s name. “Saymah” My name has become an African slave sold from its motherland to countries with false promises of acceptance. My name was bought and sold by uninformed friends who whipped and slashed it to behave in their mouths. To accept its new identity and told to not correct others as they butcher it some more. My name would always be their name, a Westernized scribble of an African scripture.
Samah Sometimes I see the sun bounce off the blackest of pavements and it feeds my name’s soul. The sun has a way of penetrating broken sidewalks to show the lush earth beneath the tar-stained surface. This gives my name and me hope.
حامس “Sam-ah” My name means forgiveness in Arabic, so I must be forgiving to I have used my name in its natural form. My name — so bat- those who chose not to learn the secret of my name. But my name tered, bruised by neglect — softens and relaxes with faith in a life is not a battle I must fight, rather a battle their tongues must take on of understanding. Times like these allow my name to grow confi- and learn how to surrender to. dence, to flourish as the sound spurts happiness and buds hope for Samah Ali is Creative Writing student dipping her toes in the world of poetry, prose and literary journalism. Exploring the realms of diasporic longing through secondhand stories and experiences, she uses her work to bridge the gap between her Canadian heritage and Kenyan-Somali roots. You can follow her @samahaliii
HERE COME THE SUPER AGED
BY FRANK COTOLO
new group of people has been identified, the “Super Aged.” They are 80-year-olds that are extremely healthy in body and mind, according to researchers. This group of super aged men and women have abilities never before documented in octogenarians, or for that matter, gym teachers of any age. Scientists say that the region of the brain called the cortex is dense in Super Aged. A thin cortex is more common in people, especially those who yearn to excel at skiing. “Also,” said Dr. Werbly Understatement, who studies people over 80, specifically those unable to lift spoons on their own, “this new blend of the elderly has far more Economo neurons in the cortex.” The Economo neuron has been found to be an element in people that demonstrate higher intelligence and patience when visiting a Department of Motor Vehicles. With an excess of these neurons, octogenarians have been known to distinguish shaving cream from toothpaste and Scope mouthwash from Gatorade. “Even though Dementia can strike earlier than in the eighties,” said Dr. Understatement, “there were more cases of Dementia in the eighties than in the nineties and the new millennium is producing victims at an alarming rate.” In one of the studies determining qualities of the Super Aged, octogenarians were asked to perform tasks that are usually arduous for the age group. “We asked a group to neatly open a package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese and spread some on pretzel rods,” Dr. Understatement said. “None of them could ask for help from any of the others in the room. Nor were any allowed to Google instructions on their smart phones. That’s right, all of them owned and operated smart phones, another indication that their perfunctory skills were exceptionally intact. Some of the men even had Instagram accounts where they posted photos of their penises.” The confirmation of Super Aged does not include information on how long the special types can maintain their agile and alert lifestyle. “Currently,” said Dr. Phillip Skaruedryver, who is working with Dr. Understatement as well as car-pooling with him to the laboratory, said, “Much more studying has to be done if we are to discover there is longevity to the Super Aged. If we were to witness nonagenians [people in their nineties]
ice climbing or kite-surfing or even freestyle scootering, we would have proof that these are a special breed.” Some of the funding for more research is being withheld due to the possibility of deaths. The older the people needed to study, the greater the risk of death. So far, not one octogenarian has died while being studied, although one almost committed suicide. “He became depressed,” said Skaruedryver. It started when he couldn’t complete his Rubik’s Cube configuration in less than three minutes. Then, he fell for one of the women in the study and she made fun of his cleft lip. He became withdrawn and refused his Jell-o dessert. We caught him ready to insert a vacuum cleaner hose into his mouth and he began to cry and scream that he wanted to die.” After extensive therapy, that man, Redford Beehound, 85, bounced back gallantly by winning the Vineman Triathlon in California, out-running his competition through 112 miles of vineyards and out-swimming them over the rough Russian River. Not only was Beehound the oldest man to win the event, he was the only one with a cleft lip to win it. Dr. Understatement said Super Aged brains “are immune to an aging process in the brain that tangles a protein that kills cells. This is why the Super Aged have terrific memories.” Indeed, two of the Super-Aged subjects studied detailed their earliest memories. “I remember when was traveling through my mother’s birth canal,” said the man, 88. “I saw the cervix dilate completely, even though there was little light. “It was beautiful and comfortable and the contractions helped me inch forward, closer to birth. The doctor’s voice was echoing through the canal. He was shouting, ‘Push, push, god damn it, harder.’ The light grew more intense as my head neared the opening and I felt a wave of cool air. I began to help my mother push. I still have mighty strong hands, you know? I never lost consciousness. The first thing I saw when I was born was the clock on the delivery room wall. It was round, with the big hand on the eight and the small hand almost on the ten.” A woman, 84, said she recalled being on a tugboat with her mother. “I was three or four and walking quite well, even though I had a bad case of Rickets for two years. My mother was the first mate and we were pulling in a tanker near Esbjerg. My mother
told me every tug job on the Jutland peninsula was dangerous and that I should hold on tight.” Dr. Understatement would like to find a way to develop a drug that could turn healthy septuagenarians into Super-Aged octogenarians. “If we could chemically stimulate the brain to produce the Economo neuron we could theoretically begin to create a super race of Super Aged men and women. Imagine populating the world with humans that look like they are ready for the dirt chamber but they can swim like sharks and run like cheetahs?” Erkstein Powervault, the author of six books warning the human race about scientists “playing God” with medicines, surgery and lightning bolts, has been critical of Dr. Understatement’s insinuation. “Where have we heard before about making people into super beings?” said Powervault. “Dr. Understatement’s statement is an understatement because if we imagine what he suggests, we see a dangerous shift in the balance of nature and sexual use of gums.” Powervault claims that making octogenarians cogent in body and mind will lead to extending the lifespan of humans, leading to dangerous outbreaks of violence and “an incontinent flow of verbal expressions, polluting the world with opinions that otherwise would be silenced by dementia.” Dr. Skaruedryver said he welcomed more opinions on anything, as long as he didn’t have to hear them. A survey presented to over three thousand septuagenarians asked if they would support a drug that produced Super Aged mentality. Here are the results: 63 % supported the drug. 14 % did not support the drug. 8 % were unable to respond, asking the surveyor to repeat the question more than ten times. 5 % began to cry and complain their tears were not as salty as they were years ago. 4.5 % asked if they could be in the 4-point-five percent that made up fourpoint-five percent of the survey. 4 % fell to sleep before the surveyor finished asking the question. 3 % asked for directions to a restroom, embarked on a visit and were never seen again. 2.5 % answered randomly, using words such as “Ticonderoga” and “Crawdaddy”.
ARE YOU LISTENING?
VINYL THEN, VINYL NOW BY M ACK “ DA NG ER” DA N I ELS
Record Store Day is like Christmas for both vinyl lovers, and for the independent stores who participate in RSD. Being a vinyl lover with deep roots in the industry I find myself immersed within this culture. I grew up with it and have the pleasure of working in one of those independent record stores. I find myself immersed within the culture with a deep love for vinyl. The first one Record Store Day began in 2007, with a meager 10 titles that collectors and fans sought after. By the following year, there were 85 Record Store Day exclusive titles that, with the vinyl trend starting to take back off, were highly sought after.
ast forward to 2015. This year there were well over 320 releases for Record Store Day. While that may seem like a collector’s dream come true, it’s only the case if you have deep pockets as the prices on vinyl seem to be only going up. It’s getting expensive to be a collector when two songs on a colored 7 inch vinyl can cost $20. The average consumer is now overwhelmed by all of the titles coming out, and will just pick out two or three things that they really, really want...then there’s the guy behind them in line who really wants it so that he can throw it up on eBay at astronomical prices. For the consumer, RSD has become overwhelming. For the collector, it has become the ultimate compulsion to try and get everything they can, but with this year’s vast catalog of titles, people were scratching their heads on what to buy now, and what will be left next week. Nevertheless, there were ravenous vinyl junkies bringing stacks to the counters worldwide, and giving their debit and credit cards a severe beating to the tune upwards of $1,200, which in 2007 would have bought you every release on RSD. “But hey, all of this vinyl being pressed is great, right?” For a retailer, it’s becoming more of a nightmare. Oversaturation has become the norm in most stores on RSD and 2015 took the cake with so many titles. It was hard to know what to order only a few titles of, and what to go deep on. Of course the no-brainers were the incredible reissue of The White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan and the Jack White championed Elvis Presley 10” of his first recordings. Another no brainer this year was the album from the band Brand New called Deja Entendu a reissue of their second album limited to 2,000 copies. According to RSD guidelines, a customer is only allowed to purchase one copy per title on RSD, and all independent record stores who participate have to sign a “pledge” that they will not sell anything before the date of RSD. They will not eBay the items, nor price gouge. The titles are spread across the stores in the States in accordance to orders and supply/demand. This year though, folks aged 12 to 40 something waited in lines, some for 10 hours, to get a copy of that Brand New album. But there was only one problem: the stores didn’t get any and if they did, it was one single copy! So how does an album like this get that much hype, yet alludes the stores? Universal Music, a champion of Record Store Day, did the unthinkable this year: they allowed Amoeba Music, a mega store in California, to purchase almost every copy of the Brand New album
so they could have an “exclusive” on it. Yes, you read that right. So in essence, RSD broke its own guidelines by selling to a major store the one album that nearly every one who was in line for RSD was wanting to get a copy of. I witnessed a few people who just walked out of the store, empty handed, refusing to spend any money when they realized they could not get what they came for. So much for championing independent stores... Sadly, this may be the new trend for the future of Record Store Day. Certain titles may not make it to your record store as they may be bought out by another major entity that has the clout and pocketbook to do so. What does that mean for the consumer or the collector? Just because it’s on the list next year, doesn’t mean you can get your hopes up. Then again, there will most likely be over 400 titles in 2016. What is the future of Record Store Day and The Record Store? By 2017, RSD is poised to release over 600 titles. This is bad for many reasons. For one, it makes it harder for retailers to know what to buy a lot of, and what to only buy a few of. Since it is non-returnable, a lot of stores will be stuck with product from 2015 by then. Also, you have kids spending tons of money on vinyl now who will be going to college or be getting married and we all know how life’s demands can lower your budget for any excursion. I guess you could say the greatest challenges lie ahead. If they do oversaturate the market, and retailers are stuck with tons of product, that only makes them hesitant to order a lot of anything the following year. And while people spend the same amounts of money, the cash flow will not be enough to cover the costs of all of the titles, which means items that would have normally flown out the door will collect dust on the shelf, simply because there are too many things to choose from, and not enough money to spend. Retailers will be stuck with a lot of product they cannot sell. They’ll have to scale back on new releases as they try to survive the massive bills they incurred to order to get all of that product that’s now just sitting on the shelves. To mark it down to move, would be a very bad thing. What is the backlash to all of this? Major labels will perceive it as waning and stop pressing a lot of titles. Reissues will be shelved and the same industry that helped the vinyl revolution come back will also be the ones to finally say “it has run its course” and stop the presses. For those who will always be die hard vinyl collectors like myself, this is a very sad reality we are facing. I will always remember 2015 as being the year that RSD sold out and died. www.fourculture.com 51
WHEN ART & MUSIC COLLIDE BY SER EN A BUTLER
here are great things that come from our imaginations when we smash two things together. Peanut butter and chocolate, forks and spoons, or even lions and tigers; there are many things that when combined create something that is bound to blow our minds. Yet, what would happen when you smash the worlds of art and music together? You would get an electropop duo out of Tel Aviv that is bound to blow your minds. With visual influence and sounds that will get your body moving, The Young Professionals create more than just music. They create a multisensory experience. Officially formed in 2010, the band started when up-and-coming producer Johnny Goldstein contacted Ivri Lider with the idea of collaboration. Initially, Lider had to decline due to other commitments. Yet, instead of walking away, Ivri and Johnny kept in touch, threw around ideas, and soon began discussing studio time. TYP would release their first single, “D.I.S.C.O.,” a rework of the 70s Ottawan classic. The song was infectious, but the accompanying video would be what really caught the world’s eye. Within 11 months of being posted to YouTube, the video would rack up more than 2 million views to date. After the success of “D.I.S.C.O.,” the time was perfect for the band to release their debut album 09:00 to 17:00, 17:00 to Whenever on September 14, 2011. With an international release planned for the album, the band then recorded two new songs. The renamed 9 AM to 5PM, 5PM to Whenever dropped internationally in 2012 and reaching #10 on the French iTunes charts. In 2014, the band would release their first single in 18 months, “Let’s Do It Right” featuring Eva Simons on vocals. One month later, the band dropped a new ep called Think Again featuring the single “Say Hey,” a track featuring Far East Movement. Think Again served as a warm-up to the band’s upcoming release Quick Quick, Star Star, Money Money due out this year. With a very busy schedule ahead of them, we had the chance to catch up with the guys of The Young Professionals to ask them the burning questions that linger around the new album, tour, what they’ve learned from each other through their five years of collaboration, and other special tidbits you’d only expect out of us here at Fourculture. So sit back and enjoy what happens when art and music collide
The Young Professionals is a slight departure from Ivri’s solo contemporary pop music. What would you say drove the both of you in the direction of electronic pop? It’s a genre we both really like and we’re always looking to make that kind of music. In TYP it’s an opportunity for us to explore this style. For those who don’t know, your band is named after the first song you wrote together. What does the name The Young Professionals mean to you? For us, there’s something in it that describes the world we are referring to in a lot of our songs, and the kind of people we write about and think about. Later this year, we can expect the release of your next album entitled Quick, Quick, Star, Star, Money, Money. What can you tell us about the album? What can we expect? Any collaborations with writers or producers you’d like to share? You can expect an upbeat pop album with several of the styles we like. There’s a lot of collaborations on it with writers, producers and other artists like Anna F, Far East Movement and some more we won’t say at the moment! This is your second album as a duo. How do you feel Quick, Quick, Star, Star, Money, Money differs from the music/ production from your last album? We feel it’s more single-minded in a good way. In our first album we explored many different styles of electronic pop and it was more all over the place (like a day in the life of a young professional...), but this time it’s a bit more focused. In your first single off the new album “All Of It But Me” you go into the theme of what goes through your lover’s mind. What inspired the concept? How did the concept of the video come about? It’s a song written while about being in a relationship when you start doubting it. The video is trying to describe the inside of that person’s mind...all the weird stuff that’s going on in our subconscious. Guy Sagy, the director, was trying to create a series of weird fantastic images that’ll describe it.
can you tell those who are new to your music about Uriel Yekutiel and the involvement Uriel with TYP (as some videos are not available in the States)? Will we see more of Uriel in future videos? We love Uriel and we’ll def keep working with him in the future in vids and on stage. There has been a lot of talk of this latest album being your “break” into the American market. What changes do you make in order to enter the American market vs. Europe? What differences have you found between the markets? Well, the sounds are a bit different between the markets but there’s some music that can be played in both. We definately feel ours will be. We don’t really change our sound for a specific market but we have some American artists featured on the album. The American music scene is a huge influence for us... What could those who have yet to see a TYP show expect? What would you like them to experience in a live setting? We try to make a TYP show into a celebration. We use video art, dancers and Uriel when we do a full stage performance, so usually it’s getting to be a big party in the end. Some artists feel that there’s a special experience in remixing someone else’s music. What do you feel is the most rewarding aspect of being able to make something new out of another artist’s music? Is there anyone you’d like to remix in the future? If so who? We love doing those remixes. It’s great when you can make something cool and new out of a song you like, and if the artist you’re remixing likes the result it’s a great feeling. There’s a lot of artists we like and would love to remix. We just finished a new one for Imagine Dragons and we are always looking for cool new ideas.
For those who don’t know, Ivri, you’re a judge on the Israeli version of the X Factor. How has your time on the show impacted your own view on the music industry? What challenges do these contestants face that are different than what you experienced in your early career? Shows like the X-Factor have become For those who haven’t seen a TYP video before, there’s a missing piece in a place where a new talented artists can your video for “All Of It But Me.” What definately start their career, get noticed and
meet the right people to order to move forward in the music industry. For sure the things they go through and the speed in which they become sort of famous is really fast and different from what it was like when I started. This can be a hard thing for a young artist and they should always realize it’s just a stepping stone and not the real thing. What do you feel influenced your choice to make music in the first place? How and when did you get your musical start? I started playing the piano when I was five and I have never really left music since. It was always kinda obvious that I would be making music. When I went to art school and started doing it professionally it was the beginning of my career. In 2011, you guys made your live debut at Fresh Paint Contemporary Arts Fair, one of the most influential art shows in Israel, where you had a 3D projection cast on an abandoned building. Since then you’ve dabbled in a lot of visuals. How has visual impacted your creative process in video, touring or album art? What visual artists do you look towards as inspiration? We feel like the visual part of music is very important today. It helps to get the vibe across and it is another artistic medium that we use to create the TYP experience. We love watching what other musicians do with visuals but we’re also very in tune with the art world and what people like Ed Atkins, Damian Hirst or Jeff Koons are doing. Johnny, being the younger one of the duo and having worked with someone who’s been in the industry for a number of years, what have you learned from Ivri during your time in The Young Professionals? What have you been able to have apply to your other work either for yourself or other artists? I grew up in the 90’s and was influenced mostly by hip hop music. Since Ivri and I started working together, I’ve been exposed to 80’s music\synth pop. It totally added a new dimension to my work while writing and producing either as TYP and to others. If I were to search on your iPods/playlist/ etc for the most played guilty pleasure song on your playlist, what would it be? Ivri – “Touch Me” by Samantha Fox :} Johnny – “Overload” by Sugarbabes
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T H E M USIC M A N GETS H IS H A N DS DI RT Y BY THE A RTI ST D
Mr. Derek Bishop is an artist who is rising from the underground and bubbling fabulously into the sunlight. I have adored this music man since our first encounters several years ago. A lively (and loving) personality with great ambitions to make you smile with his upbeat musical musings. Derek brings us his sophomore album, Bicycling in Quicksand, and took a moment to go deep into the quicksand with me.
For the Spring of 2015 you’ve presented another gift to the world in album form called Bicycling in Quicksand, a title which many of us may feel poetically suits our lives. What makes you most feel like you are bicycling in quicksand? I feel like I am bicycling in quicksand anytime there’s a situation where I know I need get the other side — even if getting there means turning everything upside down and making a big mess. If you feel stuck and hope there is something better out there, you fight and you strive no matter how dirty you might get, no matter the toll. I think there are some basic daily issues like that, but in the larger sense, it’s about making sure you stay afloat, don’t sink, and never give up in the fight for change — for making your life better. From song to song I feel cohesiveness in theme and your upbeat sound. Was there any specific area of your life (past, present or future) that the inspiration of this album came from? It’s just where I was in my life at that time. I didn’t want to drone on about past loves or loss, I wanted to focus on what was present. While I love making a heartwrenching ballad, I definitely want to show a more fun side of my music. The goal to make a dancey, retro album was a decision from the start. We weren’t focused on being dramatic or overly histrionic. We just wanted it to be extra catchy, fun, and as Abba-esque as possible. www.fourculture.com 57
I’ve always adored your writing ability. You are a magnificent lyricist. My love of words flows into my love for music, so I adore your tunes even more when they are packed with wordy thought. To whom or what do you credit your writing ability? First off, thank you for that! I have always loved a good lyric. Even as a child I would obsess over certain lines in my f avorite songs. Yet I would often bring in my own ideas of what those lyrics were saying. A great aspect of art, poetry, music, theatre is that you get to latch on your own experience to what you were hearing and seeing. I was blessed early on when I moved to NYC to be surrounded by people who were extremely talented and smart. It definitely upped the ante for me in terms of my writing. If it weren’t for these friends and inspirations, I feel that my writing would be a tad more trite and pedestrian. Plus, with age, you are able to free yourself from the fear of saying certain things. So as I’m older, I’m just naturally more at ease speaking my mind, singing my heart, and projecting my thoughts into a melody. Reading over some of the Internet chatter regarding you, I have found many people simply elated by your music. Was that your intention? If you could have your music give people one thing, what would that be? I couldn’t be happier that people are elated by my tunes. My intention was just to create something that I loved, and that the band and my producer loved. The fact that people also love this album and these songs mean the world to me. For anyone that puts their heart out like that, you always risk getting hurt. There are always people who won’t like what you do, and sometimes that can be very hard to hear. What balances that is the adulation that you get from people you really treasure you and your music. Those people are what keep you going. I love the idea of my music giving people a breath of fresh air, a moment of happiness and escape from what weighs them down. Heck, I’m happy to give people a good rhythm and melody to jog too. Music for me has always been the best destressor around. And that’s all I want to make sure people get out of my music. Prior to the album release you participated in the So Gay So What campaign. SGSW is a great undertaking to showcase the fact that being gay is not a big deal. Ironically, we have to make a big deal out of it being no big deal until peo58 www.fourculture.com
ple understand that. Do you think we will ever see a day where we all live as just humans, loving whoever we love and being whoever we may be? I want so desperately to live in a world where it doesn’t matter what your sexuality is, what color your skin is, where you are from, or who you love. I don’t like having to label myself a “gay musician”. I’d rather label myself a “musician”. However, I think it is these differences that make us strive to stand out and it sculpts who were are. It is that fight for equality that makes us stronger. As much as I don’t want to have to fight anymore, I will say that having to do so has made me such a better human and artist.
While I appreciate the need to be an uplifting and inspiring force for gay youth, I tend to firmly embrace the fact that we’re all the same, all human, and cannot be grouped by our preferences. You’ve done a lot of media for this album within the LGBT community. Do you think that restricts your reach or do your tunes transcend? Does it matter? I don’t think it restricts the reach of my music. I think it gives me a subset of people who are often automatically engaged in my music simply because we all share a similar background, whether being gay, lesbian, trans, or just trapped in a life you shouldn’t be living. I don’t think that my music necessarily plays as “gay music.” I hope it just plays as good music. I hope in time it transcends any label put on it. Some of the greatest artists and musicians have been gay, and their works has been adored and loved by many for generations and even centuries in some cases. I’m striving to carve myself out a small piece of that. I don’t care who loves my music. You can be man, woman, gay,
straight, puppy, ladybug or goldfish. If my music makes you happy, then I adore you. Leather pants and super sexy boots. I don’t know if I’m projecting here but if you love your boots as much as I love mine you’ve got to have something to say about them. How do you feel about what has become your “stage uniform”? I suppose there was always a part of me that wanted an outfit, a uniform, a look. I think it just happened through time and experimentation. I remember early on, dressing up in velvet blazers and pink ruffled tuxedo shirts. I thought that was an extra cool stage outfit. I would have loved to have been a part of the entertainment world decades earlier when clothes were insane, people were much nuttier. You could pretty much get away with anything back then. I just needed to come up with something that was practical to perform in, fashionable and stood out. Even as a child I enjoyed the fashion choices of sci-fi, the eclectic and the dandy. I merged together this Mad-Max-meets-Oliver-Twist ideal and for me it worked perfectly. I feel strong and solid. I’ve got horrible flat feet, so the boots are both support as well as being the base of the outfit. I’m a very heavy sweater, so blazers helps hide what would otherwise be an ad for a bad antiperspirant. And the pants? Well, they just made me feel like a badass. A lot of your songs, past and present, memorialize struggle. Sometimes relationship oriented. As I follow you around on social media it looks like you have a very happy relationship with your love. Do you ever find it hard to write songs of struggle while you are happy or is it easy for you to tap into all of those emotions? I wouldn’t say that it’s easy to tap into those emotions. But just like everybody else, I have ups and downs. I’m not sure why, but there’s a surge in my creativity when my mood is dour. I tend to find heartbreak and struggle more interesting to write about. While there are indeed some relationships songs on the record, they always aren’t about me. One was inspired by the break up of a friend’s relationship, so I just tapped into her struggle when writing that song. I think there’s some very unique ways to write about day-to-day issues as well: I’ve got songs on this album about procrastination, to-do lists, diabetes, evil clients, and even Facebook posts. It’s all about good packaging making a otherwise banal subject fascinating.
For Bicycling in Quicksand you undertook an extensive Kickstarter campaign. I was proud to be a part of that as were many others. Put into words for me how it feels to be backed by wonderful people to make your vision happen? I was unbelievably excited and proud that the Kickstarter campaign was a success. Never in 100 years would I have ever have thought I’d find an audience that believed in me to that extent. It made the album belong to everyone else — because they literally bought into it, and followed the making of it, month by month. It also kicked up my productivity up several notches, because now I had to be accountable for what these people believed in. I needed to make sure the product that was delivered was exceptional. Picture it, adolescent Derek in your bedroom back home where you grew up. Have you fulfilled or surpassed what the childhood version of you anticipated? Did you have any vision growing up that you would ever morph into who you are today? I don’t think as a child I would’ve ever thought that I would have the courage and strength to do so many of the things I’ve done. Every child has big dreams, but nowhere in your nine-year-old mind do you realize what it takes to make them happen. I had to stop waiting around for things to happen to me and instead be proactive and make them happen. Only I could make any difference. I’m glad adolescent me didn’t know that, because part of the fun of being a kid (if you’re lucky) is being able to dream big without thinking about the consequences. Young me was always terrified of what people might think of me. I would have never evolved into this version of myself until I stopped giving a fuck about what other people thought. It’s extremely freeing. How much do you love Stevie Nicks? I find Stevie Nicks to be a great source of inspiration. It’s not like when I was 13 and thought she hung the stars. Now I appreciate her as an artist and as a songwriter, and despite getting older, she’s not slowing down. She is not letting the media and it’s obsession with youth stop her from creating great product, releasing new work, and being out on the road every day. I think she is a prime example that artistry musicianship have no age or time limit. She’s provides a constant source of inspiration and reminds me I can always be better, and to never stop dreaming. Plus, I do love the scarves.
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How do you know how long you'll live? You don't. There's no way of knowing. Sure, you want to make this wonderful crazy mixed up thing called life last as long as possible, right?
mean, we all have things we decide we want to do. It could be simple. It could be something you have a tiny chance of achieving, but these things we often label ‘dreams’ are the things we really want to do before we shuffle off this mortal coil and whatever happens after that happens. We don’t know that either. We may think we do. We may have faith in what we believe, but none of us know. Why we tear each other apart over what these beliefs are is beyond me. But that’s a whole different planet of apes. What I want to talk about here is the idea that at some point after we’ve stopped growing but before we’ve started shrinking again, we experience a major life-changing ‘thing’. It’s more than a mood swing. It’s more than a rant in a magazine, it’s....a ‘midlife crisis’. So dear reader, it is with heavy heart that I turn to the knotty subject of acting in an age-appropriate way. For me, by all accounts, this should be to worry about ‘stuff’ and feel all depressed about ‘things’. But. I just. Can’t. I should, by rights, be having a crisis by now. A midlife one. I am having one of sorts too. The crisis I am having is as follows. I. Am. Not. Having. A. Crisis. I must be missing out. All around me people are looking into ‘further learning’ classes and ‘self-improvement seminars’. The walls are smeared with the oil from the cogs of a thousand clocks that are literally running out of time. People are screaming and googling ‘local psychiatrist’. Grown men (is there ever really such a thing?) are weeping over the loss of programmes that talk about fast cars they could never afford, secretly murdering their partners in repeat dreams heavy with symbolic ‘freedom desires’. They know this because they go to a dream interpreter once a week. It started off as once a month but that wasn’t enough because they can’t hold their dreams that long. Mainly because they are scared to keep a dream diary in case their partners find out and realise they are living with a lunatic. So, for me there are no flotation tanks. There’s no regression therapy. I’m not even going up for a weekend in the woods to shout at moss and hug trees. I can’t bring myself to fall into crisis mode. Don’t get me wrong. It all looks so tempting. It really does. BY A DA M D But here’s the thing. As I mentioned at the www.fourculture.com 61
outset, it would be pretty weird to know how long I’m going to live. So there’s problem number one. I can’t know when the ‘mid’ of my life is. I may have already had it. It may be years away. I can’t keep up a crisis in the random event that I hit the midpoint of my life perfectly. I do have a few confessions though. So, here’s the first sign something isn’t quite as right as it used to be. The something in question is my body. The current vessel of my soul has been showing a few signs of wear and tear lately. I have reached the age where I can make it difficult to move thanks to my back seizing up. Why? Well, because I ‘sit funny’. Yes. If I allow myself to slouch, to slump, to lean, to hunch, to lounge for too long, my back says ‘thanks, but I won’t be helping you much for the rest of the day’. I have reached the age where I have to do ‘exercises’. Now, I only recently appreciated how to pronounce Pilates without rhyming it with pirates. It’s a bit much to ask me to actually do any of the bloody stuff. Something about a happy cat and an angry cat? Something about imagining I’m zipping up a pair of drainpipe jeans? So yeah. Watch out for this one. Someone at work is bound to notice you’re only able to walk about if you hold onto the wall. Someone is going to wonder why you keep lying down and pretending to put on tight jeans. “What’s the matter with you?” “Me? Nothing. I just sat funny yesterday” But that’s not the whole of it I’m afraid. Yes, there are other physical differences from my pre-non-crisis self. There’s the ‘random shooting pain’ moment. Yes, maybe whilst walking, or opening a jar, or turning too quickly to catch someone in the act of having their own midlife crisis pain shriek. One minute everything is fine and your joints are merrily doing what is expected of them. The next? Well, the next moment, someone has apparently poured boiling water down the inside of your neck, and you can feel it running down your spine. Then, just as you reach for your phone to dial 999, or 911 in the USA, which, actually, is more practical, because it’s quicker. What do I mean? Don’t you remember having to ‘dial’ the number? What are you, like, 6 or something? No? Phones with numbers on dials? The 9 takes the longest to dial, so why did we have to do it 3 times in an emergency? By the time you’d been connected it had happened. “Please state the nature of your emergency” “Over” Where was I? Oh yes. In a random shooting pain moment. Well it’s stopped now. So you pause for a minute and re62 www.fourculture.com
peat the action that made it happen a second ago and guess what? It doesn’t happen again. So you shrug your shoulders, then THAT kicks off another pain somewhere just below your shoulder blade, and it sort of feels ‘frozen’, only you can’t let it go. See what I did there? Me neither. I’ve never seen the film. So we have bad backs and random pains. I must learn Spanish or cookery to compensate. Or Spanish cookery. I’ve always wanted to play the tuba, maybe I’ll learn that. Make a list and then start ticking things off. Unlike the list you may have made at school: 1) Kiss a girl 2) Like it 3) Hope boyfriend don’t mind it This middle age list will have some pretty exciting stuff on it. Then you’ll cross all that out as you know you can’t possibly do it all. Or any of it: 1) Bermuda Triangle 2) Don’t go too near 3) Try to see it from my angle That joke was brought to you by the letters F and U and the number 1980 One reason you can’t do most of this stuff any more is yet another sign of middle age. You get fat ‘middle age spread’. Well I laughed this off several years ago. Me? Get fat? As if. I could eat what I wanted when I wanted, and I didn’t gain a pound, or a centimetre. Then one night I went to bed and woke up looking like I was about to be John Hurt in Alien. Literally. Overnight. Not literally. Middle aged people know how to use ‘literally’ correctly. So you carry on as always, except this thing called your ‘metabolism’ decides to slow down. You don’t remember telling it to do this. You wonder if you can take it back, or get an upgrade, but you can’t find the receipt. You could try taking it back to the store without one, but your charm and guile doesn’t cut the mustard now that you look like you’re dripping sweat from pores you never knew you had and making every item of clothing look like you had a problem with your kitchen tap and tried to stop the water from going everywhere using only your armpits. So you keep on as you were; only now you can’t run for the train, and walking up 3 flights of stairs makes you sweat buckets. Literally. Not literally. Sorry if this is suddenly coming across as angry. I haven’t eaten for a while you see. Not eating makes me cranky. Oh so very irrational and miserable. It’s a cruel counterpoint to noticing your belly expanding. You catch sight in the window reflection and think, ‘no problem, tomorrow I diet’. Then you realise you haven’t eaten in, like, 2 hours, and you start to feel hungry. Then, well, then you start to lose all sense of
proportion about anything and everything. The tiniest thing turns you into the Incredible Hulk. Only without the franchise. You’ll reach for a packet of crisps, or chips, if you absolutely fucking must. I mean, JESUS, must you change every fucking thing from a perfectly good descriptive word to another not quite so appropriate word? Must you? Hmmm? I swear, if you don’t just give me some fucking food now....so you try opening the packet and it resists and then opens and the contents shoots out all over the floor and you scream and shout like you’ve lost an appendage. Then you lean over to pick them up and your phone falls out your breast pocket and you fling it across the room and rip open your shirt and all the buttons pop off and just when sanity is packing its bags and thumbing a lift to a background of maudlin music you remember you’ve an open box of donuts over there on the table and you reach over and cram one into your mouth. Panting and heaving as the jam dribbles down your chin, you stare maniacally into space and laugh like a mad fish. Then your body accepts the sugar intake and you gaze around at all the destruction and shrug and leave the room, with a frozen shoulder. So, physically then, I may have to accept the age I have reached has some kind of middle, and it’s settled somewhere above my waist. But that’s not all that I’ve noticed. People in a midlife crisis are supposed to be making one last bid to recapture their youth, or possibly to go for a better one second time around. Exhibit A is the sports car, preferably a convertible. Here I have a confession. I have recently purchased a convertible. It’s debatable whether it can be classed as a sports car. However, it has a V8 engine which growls when you accelerate. I have to say, this is something that pleases me. In fact, when I put the roof down I find myself grinning from ear to ear as I drive around, making the engine growl as I zip away from the lights. I have no idea if this is anything to do with the age I have reached. I can’t claim it to be a reliving of my youth. If I was really dialling back the years I’d have had to find an old Ford Escort estate and settle into the boot as I did on all our family holidays. Those cars seated 5, but we were 6, with Grandma still alive. It didn’t seem right to put her in the boot, and one of my sisters got car sick before we even set off, so I was the logical choice. Dad would make a little gap for me amongst all the bags and other holiday paraphernalia, and I’d settle onto the pillow and spend the journey focusing on the immediate past. So I have the car. Next comes body art. I am fully aware that people get tattoos at any time in their lives. Same with sports cars.
But people my age, if they have yet to have a tattoo, are now supposed to consider getting one. Have I? No. Will I? Maybe. Closely related to tattoos is your style of dress. Now, at the moment, the things that I wore first time around are really back ‘in fashion’, it seems. I do admit to smiling inwardly when I see a group of ‘youngsters’ (this age obviously shifts as mine increases, but youngsters are currently under 30) walking down the street in my clothes. Literally. Not literally. So we have the aforementioned skinny tapered leg wear, and we also have ripped jeans. Dad used to work in a furniture shop, and he’d bring home swatches of material which we used to sew behind the holes in our jeans to create...I don’t know really. But that’s got to be next. Once we discover the joy of wearing ripped jeans, so it follows we discover the joy of adorning the tears with old curtains and sofa covers. Want to get ahead of the curve? Go back in time. But there’s a problem for me. Can I do
that all over again? Can I wear what I once wore because everyone else is, or have I had my turn? Do I look like an old man trying to dress young? Do I give a shit? Go on. Guess. That said there’s this great little scene in Family Guy. Peter is going to buy a lottery ticket but he pauses at the front door: Lois: Peter, what’s wrong? Peter: It’s, uh, nothin’, I’m just gonna wait a minute. There are teenagers in skinny jeans out there. So dear reader, let this be a friendly wave from the future. It’s not a warning, because it’s clear that we have been peddled the idea of a midlife crisis just so that we can spend more money and justify going a little mad. But you just don’t have to. Sure, your body will fall apart, and you’ll get cranky and even more judgemental. I didn’t bring that up before because, frankly, I didn’t think you’d understand the point. I mean, I haven’t met you but I can tell just by looking at you. I’m 45, you see. I’m imbued
with a sense of all-knowing. So park all the inevitable physical nonsense. What message should I be sending you from the future? As I sit here and pull up the waist on my trousers above my belly button. As I roll my eyes at the noise coming from the radio, which you call music. As I pop another pill or apply some more ointment to another aching, protesting part of my ever-expanding body. You’ve got some nerve descending into some pointless panic about getting old(er) and no longer doing what you did or wondering what it is you will be doing in the future and who you’ll be doing it with. You’ve got your health, you’ve got your family and friends, you’ve got an untold number of years ahead of you. You’d better start living like it. So what message do I have for you? The message is simply this. Get over it. Literally. Follow Adam D and Photostat Machine: www.fourculture.com 63
BY DA RYA TEESE W ELL
oardner’s Bar is a Hollywood institution that has existed since 1942. They advertise themselves as a “Local Hangout for Who’s Who and Who Cares” It’s a classic dive with well-worn forties sleekness and a sense of noir desperation. Good martini? Hell yes. They were originally part of a charming Hollywood office complex with a New Orleans style patio and rod iron staircases that were transformed into a large dance floor, a stage, and three bars. Up the rod iron stairs, next to one of the bars, it’s OK to spank someone or be spanked on a giant wooden cross or hanging in wrist cuffs. Welcome to Hollywood. Boardner’s is on Cherokee Avenue, just off the sparkling, freshly polished, decrepit 64 www.fourculture.com
turd that is Hollywood Boulevard. The Boulevard was a wickedly fun orange-scented pleasure zone in a 1920’s heyday but grew steadily blander into the 1960’s until declining into a tacky, dirty, drug-plagued disgrace in the latter parts of the 20th century. After a concerted effort by City Fathers to revive it as a tourist attraction, The Boulevard is now the artery that leads to all major bars, especially the ones where celebrities melt in pools of alcohol and strobe flashes before the jackal packs of paparazzi. I personally miss the tacky menace of the old days, shopping for slutty shoes and wigs with working girls and drag queens. Cherokee is a nondescript street that is mostly parking lots and nameless industries decorated in classic L.A. urban style
with faded signs, crumbling exteriors, chain link and razor wire; the perfect setting for post-apocalyptic Industrial youth to gather in darkness to feed on the souls of the Damned. Bar Sinister caters to a crowd that is “Hollywood Dark Decadence for Alternative PleaZures catering to the Artistic, Creative and Futuristic Industrial Tendencies in a Hollywood Mecca” The patrons are Goths, Vampyres, Punks, Gender Outlaws, Romantics, Steampunks, Uniformed Fascist types, and Industrial Rastafarians as well as a few bookish young men and women in dark business attire, S&M enthusiasts, aspiring lesbians and an occasional star of stage and screen, incognito. The music varies, but the core is
darkwave and industrial. Darkwave, for the novice, includes eighties classics like “Blue Monday” by New Order, Depeche Mode, The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and Banshees and industrial-influenced bands like Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and She Wants Revenge. If it’s a little detached, a little angry and very dark, it fits. Pure industrial has a similar vibe, but usually pairs hard driving, classic-rock rooted guitar with mechanical drumbeats, percussion and distorted vocals to create a great beat to flail to. It has roots in bands like Kraftwerk, Frank Zappa, John Cage, Velvet Underground, and Throbbing Gristle but now is an international phenomenon. Industrial music brings a certain totalitarian aesthetic with it, which explains the occasional Stalinist or Trenchcoated Stormtrooper in the crowd. I showed up at about 10 P.M the first time I went. I was by myself and a little nervous. I was wearing a fishnet catsuit, a cheaply made black PVC corset cinched to a point where it disrupted normal digestion, a black schoolgirl skirt, and well-worn black leather thigh-high boots. My hair was black and kerchiefed up, my eyes were lined in sharply defined black and my lips were metallic purple. Over the catsuit, I wore a deconstructed Siouxsie and the Banshees tshirt tied at the waist to show the corset off. At night, the lighting on Cherokee is dim and noir-ish. I paid for parking in a lot fenced in by eleven-foot chain link and walked up Cherokee with others I assumed were headed the same way, given our similar tastes in clothing. The neon sign for Boardner’s was warm, inviting and unobtrusive. Just past it, a line of people were waiting to enter a long patio lit with dozens of candles. I stood in line behind a girl who had a gorgeous rainbow of dreadlocks, magnificent Celtic arm tattoos, a short black fishnet dress and giant boots covered with buckles and straps. Behind me was a tall, older, quiet gentleman with raven black hair and pale blue eyes dressed in a black t-shirt and black pants. The tall African American doorman looked at my ID then at me and smiled. “You could be anybody” he said, wryly, and let me in. I took that to heart. I passed a patio on my left with dozens of burning candles in the middle of a nonworking-fountain and then descended a flight of stairs to the main part of the bar. It was uncrowded, roomy and open at this time of night; The DJ was playing Depeche Mode but no one was dancing yet. A beautiful platinum blonde girl with a Dietrich face sat on a bar stool. She wore a full fishnet catsuit, expensive black five-inch heels, a tiny skirt over a tiny thong, and nothing else, save the two X’s of electrical tape across her nipples, a heavy leather collar and opera-length leather gloves.
This was my kind of place. “Hey, Darya.” It was Cooper, in a gray military trench coat and hat. “Hey Coop!” I gave him a hug. “Kind of a fascist look for a proud black man, isn’t it?” Coop did a shifty thing he does with his body while he’s thinking of a snappy comeback. “I’m honoring my white half tonight”. “ ...And hoping to score some of that fascist pussy, no doubt,” I teased. Coop and I had a lusty history. He gave me a screwed-up smile. I ordered a mineral water for each of us. We were both always semibroke, even though we both worked. He didn’t drink alcohol either, at least not much. “Thanks. Been upstairs yet?” “No” Coop snickered and slapped my bottom playfully. “Someone who loves a good spanking as much as you do has to go!” We walked together up one of the steep bookended stairways with rod-iron railings. Upstairs was another bar in one corner and a nicely constructed wooden X for S&M restraint on the other wall. Coop knew I loved spankings from a more intimate setting than this, but this was pretty cool nonetheless. I had been introduced to this kind of play by a 300 pound dominant who had persuaded me to meet him in the parking lot of an empty drag club in Orange County. He then attempted to bribe me with leather gloves, four pairs worth. It worked well enough for him to get me into a motel room and have some very kinky sex with him. Having a 300 pound man on top of me first gave me an attack of claustrophobia, but then awoke some desire within to be consumed and engulfed by a guy who was literally large and in charge. He and I had brief affair that further opened up me up to how exactly how female I was. He showered me with presents, including a pair of infamous eggplant purple five inch heel thigh-high boots that I have to this day. A dom with a shaved head was setting up by the X bar. Coop knew him. Coop knew everyone. “Ricky, this is Darya”. Ricky kissed my hand. “Darya, want to help Ricky warm up?” He stage whispered, “Darya likes spankings, and she has a great ass”. Coop was speaking the truth. Ricky gently placed my wrists in the fur-lined cuffs and had me use them to support my weight, which pitched me forward. He gently flipped up my skirt, which was hiding the least covered part of my catsuit, which meant that about 60% of my smooth white butt. “Safeword?” he asked. “Peach”, I replied. Ricky was an artist at this. He started with his hand, gently swatting me, and then
picked up the intensity. I have an absurdly high threshold of pain, and I was sure my buttocks was already beginning to glow red. He asked my permission to use a crop; a formal nicety in a public club that would not be necessary at the Lair or Threshold Society, where I would usually be, by definition, submitting. I definitely felt his first strike and the glow that emanated from it. I’m not someone who seeks release from the world through pain on a regular basis. Every once in a while, especially when I’m dressed to express, there’s a certain transcendent glow that overtakes me. Blood begins to flow in channels I’ve forgotten, and I‘m sweetly reminded of being alive. Ricky was skillfully using all of the surfaces available to him. I seemed to be delighting the crowd in a quiet way as well, and when he finally got a serious intake of breath and an “Ooh!” out of me they seemed to approve more. He had a small hand-held cat-o-nine tails he finished with, but it was more about his technique than effect. I’m sure his deft handwork and spinning was entertaining everyone, but the contact felt like butterfly kisses on my rump after the crop. Ricky removed the cuffs after tenderly touching my ass and flipping my skirt down. I gave him a big hug and kissed his cheek. It’s something I do to torture guys who are potentially freaked out about any kind of show of affection. Ricky took it well. I went straight to the bar and asked for a cup of ice to cool my burning derriere. A tall guy in a leather trench told the dreadlocked young lady behind the bar to buy me a drink too. I ordered a Red Bull with a slice of lime, and asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to ice down my ass. Showing people your naked ass at Bar Sinister is a pretty common and unremarkable event, especially just after you’ve been spanked. The guy in the trench coat obliged me, as did a pretty boy in short black vinyl shorts and fishnets; both were very professional, although the pretty boy did give me a cheap feel on the house. A skinny white girl in a nurse’s outfit slid up in front of me and embraced me. A tall African-American girl in a latex catsuit with gorgeous magenta dreadlocks joined in and hugged us both. The hugs were extended, as they often are here on occasion. In a room full of people who look to the outside world like Satan’s vampire army, the overall feeling is often oceanic, non-judgmental love. Being a freak is what is cool here; the opposite of the clubs that surrounded us on the Boulevard. There were no bros or babes acting out a desperate, consumerized over-hyped mating Kabuki here. We were flesh and dark, warm, human blood. TO BE CONTINUED
SOUNDS | VISIONS | WORDS | VOICES