ISSUE FOUR | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013
CALLING ALL ARTISTS
STEPHEN BLACKMOORE MONTE PITTMAN THE DROWNING MEN
CHARLES DOWD DAZ GIRLING KELLY EREZ
THE BURNING OF ROME ON THE FIFTY LIANA CONYERS ISSUE FOUR
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what is CALLING ALL ARTISTS
Art, music, literature, and compelling societal views that live outside of the box: these are the four pillars of culture that create the world we live in. Fourculture seeks to bring to the light artists of all mediums. Your contributions to the magazine and the universe are the fuel that brings the movement to life as we reach out around the globe. Calling all artists as we join in support of those who are creating the culture of tomorrow.
let’s chat Send correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Artist D
Christine Blythe Serena Butler Kathy Creighton Kara Estes Paula Frank Alexandra Oppedisano Annie Shove
Rene Trejo, Jr.
Paula Frank CALLING ALL ARTISTS
let’s get connected
Ann Marie Papanagnostou
© 2012-2013 Fourculture Magazine | Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Ann Marie Papanagnostou Kara Estes
The Burning of Rome
the universal storyteller
Monte Pittman 20
human artist redefined 44
a living illustration:
Steam Powered Giraffe
needle in the haystack 6
Daz Girling 10
The Drowning Men into the unknown 16
animatronics with soul 28 of muder and mayhem:
Stephen Blackmoore 36
soul with heart
Kelly Erez 58
On The Fifty
the dark side 48
punk-pop revolutionaries 62
procrastination decision time, I think
Frank Cotolo 56
Beckie Cannons 66
my four 67
COVER PHOTOGRAPHY BY BETH RILEY
who we are THE ARTIST D The Artist D has been performing online since the mid 1990s; a relic from the cam show age before social networking was a network, advocate for the rights of the underground, author, painter, columnist, raconteur, provocateur and host of The Fabulous D Show, a radio show broadcast weekly for anybody with a brain in their head. Catering to the freaks, geeks and black sheep of society, he makes the extraterrestrials of culture feel right at home on planet Earth.
CHARLIE DEMOS A graduate of Bennington College, Mr. Demos is an award-winning songwriter, singer, music producer, and performance artist in New York City. He is a spiritual warrior, rabble rouser, Marijuana enthusiast, art-house film lover, and proud father to a Yorkshire Terrier.
SERENA BUTLER Serena “Rena” Butler marches to the beat of a Linn LM-1 Drum Computer. Currently, she remains in a virtual time warp looking to hit that day where replicating a DeLorean time machine becomes reality. Sadly, it has yet to occur; she remains in the current year here to bring you the latest noise making waves in the four pillars of culture. When not working on the magic behind these pages you can find her rummaging the local independent record shops for CDs and vinyl, trying to get past the second level in Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker game for Sega Genesis, or mastering The Force just from watching the Star Wars trilogy.
FRANK COTOLO Known for his comedic acumen, Cotolo has made his living as a writer and a performer all of his life and during the lives of others. He is the author of the novel License To Skill and has co-authored its screenplay version, Molotov Memoirs, a collection of short stories, The Complete and Unabridged History of Japan, an epic novel, and a serious novella, Sweet Shepherd. Cotolo, born in Brooklyn in 1950, has worked in broadcasting, film, theater, music and television.
PAULA FRANK Writer, painter, music lover, dreamer; Paula’s everchanging Pisces spirit rolls with whatever the tides bring her. Constantly in pursuit of the beauty of art in all its forms, she pours her love for human connections into everything she does, be it writing fiction, interviewing her favorite musicians and artists, painting an emotion, or sharing time with the people she loves. This small town girl has great big dreams and strives to make them reality. She is thrilled to offer them to you, the readers and fellow dreamers. After all, what good are dreams with no one to share them?
ANN MARIE PAPANAGNOSTOU Ann Marie likes to make things pretty. This award-winning designer loves to lose herself in the creative process and is psyched to work alongside amazing individuals who fuel her artistic fire . . . and tolerate her fierce coffee addiction. She is most content with a beverage in one hand and a mouse in the other.
KATHY CREIGHTON Kathy Creighton, a.k.a. Mama Kath, is on a magical mystery tour of current fine, literary, and performance art and wants to bring you along for the ride. How? Besides watching, reading and listening, Kathy sits down with these creators and discusses everything from what inspires them to where their journeys began to how to fix the current A&E industry. She asks the questions you’ve been waiting for someone to ask.
CALLING ALL ARTISTS
© 2012-2013 Fourculture Magazine | Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
VANILLA CHILD Opinionated multifaceted writer, broadcaster and DJ from the east coast. Vanilla Child brings us her unique insights on music. VC is proficient in hip hop and has been schooled on the culture of the underground. Co-host of The Fabulous D Show from season two to five, Vanilla Child is known and loved by many for her no-holds-barred style and knowledge of the extraterrestrial.
ere it begins again. It’s the time of your life where you’ve been programmed to shake off the cobwebs and do it all over again. The New Year is upon us like every year, so what are you going to do about it? As the culture of the popular people sets up another 365.242 days worth of landmines, we the people of the underground take a deep breath preparing to avoid them. It’s that time when you promise yourself you’ll do better and, most importantly, you’ll do different. The key to change is within the culture. Everyone every year says change, change, change but deep down they want us to stay the same. The scandal of art is the fear it may change the mind and therefore the life. Change the life and change their boring culture. If the train was derailed on their yearly rituals they may have to think. Heaven forbid we bring the underground above and give it some air. It may breathe. Our cover feature is a little animatronic barbershop trio called Steam Powered Giraffe. They are a template for change of mind. For years they played regularly in San Diego California’s Balboa Park for all ages. We the people love Steam Powered Giraffe’s harmonics no matter if you’re a little baby, a young hipster goth or an old banana bread baking grandma. Now they play for everyone and go on tours entertaining growing venues. They are unique, deep and highly melodic. They’ll stay unique and everyone will still fall in love with them. Those are the gems of hope for the underground existing above ground. Knowing these robots as I do, I don’t believe they would ever bend to the cookie cutter ways of drab society. This is what we fight for down here. As we travel into another wild year, a year we never thought we’d see (because we never do), we’ll give it another try. It’s an attempt to avoid the landmines and trade old lifestyles for new ones. Everyone wants organic these days unless it’s their culture. “The people” love stale culture with yearly short-term resolutions, bland holidays with extra old traditions, and repetitive pop. Exchange your stale force-fed culture with an organic one. Embrace the underground because there are millions of graphic artists, illustrators, writers, artists and musicians who are not bowing to the stale. You want to eat better in the New Year? Then you’ll want to start by digesting new culture in Fourculture magazine. Bottom’s up,
The Artist D
Artists, musicians & writers . . . we want to hear from you
CALLING ALL ARTISTS
www.fourculture.com ISSUE TWO | SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER
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NEEDLE BY K ATH Y CR EI GHTO N 6 www.fourculture.com | ISSUE FOUR
In an era when everything on the radio sounds the same and all the unsigned or lesser known musicians are lost in the din of the internet, it is hard to believe that truly unique music and surprising stage productions. The Burning of Rome is that “needle in the haystack.” Born eight years ago in San Diego, the current line up of founder Adam Traub, Joe Aguilar, Aimee Jacobs, Colin Kohl, and Lee Williams has been together for five years.
Adam came to the table with very interesting music education. While healing from numerous surgeries as a youth, he tripped over the speaker cables for the family stereo as he was wandering around the house. The accident revealed the ‘split’ in stereo recordings. The vocals played out of one speaker while the piano played in the other. Adam began to unbalance more recordings of many different artists to learn the piano parts. He still feels there is a great deal of merit in the creative process of learning other people’s music. He says you can find nuances that you hadn’t noticed before. Sometimes he even benefits from musicians that he doesn’t prefer to listen to. Curiosity just causes him to pick out a song and give it a spin to see what small treasure may be hiding in it. The catalog of music Traub does like and whose influences are very obvious are groups like Oingo Boingo and composer Danny Elfman. In fact, on The Burning of Rome’s new album, With Us, the track “Opus For Sleepwalking” could fit into any Tim Burton movie. Adam says
if he could pitch his music to the director, it would be a dream come true. Adam also is a fan of classic punk rock from bands like Black Flag and loves old ragtime. When he combines those influences he calls it “black rag.” There are other intellectual and spiritual influences of Traub’s that play into The Burning of Rome’s music and their stage shows. Adam is a fan of Broadway musicals,not to the extent that he ever wanted to be an actor however. He says that’s just too much stress; having to memorize lines, songs and dance routines. He also prefers the freedom he finds in a live rock show as opposed to the regimentation of a play. So, he opted for becoming a sound tech and a musician. Adam works both into TBOR’s stage shows. However, one theater element that is optional with the band is the “fourth wall.” Adam says that they do feel out a crowd before dropping it but if the audience is into it, then they become part of the performance. He’s also a “Burner.” Adam chuckled at that question. “It kind of comes with this
kind of music.” One of the elements that tends to personify art from the Burning Man tribes is spirituality. Adam says there is always a spiritual element in his songs that he writes about the human condition. He also says that some songs start out as just strings of consciousness...series of words that may not make sense at first reading but as one ponders them they come together to describe an emotion. He finds that sometimes the writing process becomes a form of meditation. The Burning of Rome started seriously in L.A. due to the lack of opportunities to perform in their hometown of San Diego. Traub explained that S.D. has a limited number of small clubs and once they find acts that work well with their clientele they tend to stay with them so it’s hard for new artists to get a foot in the door. Los Angeles clubs and the audiences have offered more fertile ground for The Burning of Rome to grow in. Over time they were able to move back to San Diego. However, Traub himself is living in East L.A. He finds the grittier culture there is an excel-
lent environment to create in. San Diego is close enough that he can easily travel there to rehearse with the rest of the band. Speaking of the importance that audiences play in their shows, as previously mentioned, The Burning of Rome always taps into the vibe of a crowd early in a performance. Starting with the fact that they rarely come to the stage with a preprepared setlist, the show develops based on the energy of the audience. Props will come out and may spend the whole show on the stage. However, styrofoam skulls and mannequin parts can find their way out into the room and change or add to the groove of the show. Being an indie band with a limited budget Adam notes that they have to be very creative with their money. Many of their props and production elements have been repurposed from consignment stores and dumpsters. However, Traub does note that make-up and costuming are also an integral part of The Burning of Rome’s performance art installations and are determined before they go on stage. Going from recording to live perfor-
mances can prove to be a challenge for Adam and the band. In discussing the new album, With Us, there was over a year of work that went into it, between writing and then choosing the tracks to actually put on the record. People expect to hear songs from an album at a show so how well the song can be performed live is one of the factors in making those choices. The Burning of Rome does not use backing tracks in a live show. Adam believes that any song needs to be able to be molded for individual performances, that each show should be a surprise. “Isn’t that why we go to shows? Because we know every time it will be a little different.” Traub also feels that technology has done a large disservice to the industry in this area. “People come on stage, plug in a computer and basically do a sing-along to a recording. Then add autotune which covers up the fact that the “artist” doesn’t really have any singing talent. I’ve even seen lip-syncing in small clubs these days.” He admits to being a real stickler for detail and his own worst critic thus explaining the length of time to process this
album. So people may feel that With Us is stylistically all over the map but listening to it a few times in different environments, it becomes a patchwork quilt that does tell a story-the story of The Burning of Rome and their collection of creative talent. Of course the conversation had to go down the road of the condition of the music business today. Adam agrees that those with real talent and passion may not get the big label deal and play arena shows but they will definitely still be around in five, ten, even fifteen years. They have the guts to keeping going and the creativity to still write new lyrics and compose new songs. Speaking of his hometown, he says if you ask people about the “San Diego scene” most will say “Yeah. Blink 182” but there is so much more. Adam encourages people to get into the smaller venues not only of SD but where ever they are and find the music. With Us is currently available on iTunes, and on Amazon as an MP3 or on CD or vinyl. Watch their website or Facebook for upcoming shows.
a living illustration
BY TH E A RTIST D
Take 1 part Zombie, 2 parts Collagen Girls, 1 lb of eyeliner and a dash of drag artist. Shake it like a British Nanny as Daz Girling brings us his special brand of art through illustration! Daz discusses the driving force of his fascination in art, sci-fi and horror that is titillating our senses. A stunning tribute to Amy Winehouse and an incredible dedication toward The Alternative Model Directory. Figure out what makes Daz tick and get a look at her brainz.
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You are absolutely infused with art in many different forms, what drives you to be so artistic? What drives you to create? I have always had a need to create. If I looked at a painting or sculpture or any piece of art for that matter, I’d want to try and make it my own. When I was a kid if my friends came over and played cowboys or played being super heroes, make believe wasn’t good enough for me. I’d want to make them swords or masks or a bow and arrow if there was a spare branch around. That has stuck with me really. I like the idea of making something from little or nothing. If I couldn’t create something I don’t think I could function. You have a very distinct style compared to other artists. What is your attraction to creating images of the sexy, the bloody, and what some may call macabre? I used to watch a lot of Sci-Fi and horror movies when I was a kid and they always had the most artistic value to them. Special effects are an art form and horror movies are where that art is most obvious so I’m influenced by those a lot. I learned a lot about drawing the flesh and bones of somebody through horror movies. I copied techniques they used to create an illusion and so most of my art has some dark influence. At school I would draw creatures, monsters, and dinosaurs for my classmates and my school report would always say, “Has vivid imagination.” As for the sexy side, it probably comes from reading too many comics as a child. All the women in comic books look a certain way and so I kind of learned to draw women that way. It’s a pretty superficial and very stereotypical male view of a ‘sexy woman,’ but I have kind of taken it and twisted it into my version I think. How do your drawings begin? Do you dream of these things late at night? I certainly get my ideas late at night when it is quiet and I have a clear head. That’s when my creativity will flow more so the older I get. I will always have a complete and finished image in my head and I then try my best to recreate it on the page. If it is a project I am working on purely for myself then sometimes time will just run away with me and the whole piece will be finished in one sitting. Suddenly I will hear the birds singing and the sun is coming up. Identifying as a straight man, you happen to cross dress as a woman or a drag illusionist. What is your attraction to doing so? Well, first it’s a huge amount of fun. The first time I dressed up was at a fetish club night a couple of years ago and I had such a blast I wish I had done it years before. If I go more deeply into it, it’s another creative process I think. It’s something I’ve been doing for a relatively short time, but from an artist point of view I had an inkling I might be able to pull it off. I’m pretty chilled out and I have no insecurities about myself or need to prove my masculinity. These things don’t phase me. Sometimes I think perhaps they should, but usually that thought goes away quickly. It’s a bit of a cliché, but every man should walk in a woman’s shoes once. You learn a lot about yourself and others around you. Your art is edgy. You are at times “a guy in a dress” and you don’t hold back on your opinions! Where do you get your distinct style? (What makes you, you?) I think I just started late in life. Being known as the kid that could draw throughout my school life overshadowed me as a person and made me more introverted and at times frustrated. Years later, I started working in a retail environment that forced 12 www.fourculture.com | ISSUE FOUR
me to be more socially interactive and also taught me a lot about what makes people tick. I think those factors along with good friends that take no bullshit and a family that has always let me do my own thing in terms of my creativity has turned me into a more confident person. I know what matters in life and what doesn’t. My fiancé, Amy, my friends, my family, and my art matter. You’re working on a project for The Alternative Model Directory. Tell us about the project and when will we see it? The Alternative Model Directory or TAMD is a group started on Facebook by an amazing lady called Ashley who I think was frustrated at how badly many non-mainstream models in the alternative community were being represented and how little there actually was for them in terms of getting noticed and having a springboard into a career. Mainstream model agencies just don’t pick up on anybody out of the ordinary. So over a relatively short space of time, Ashley pretty much single handedly turned her directory into a phenomenon. The Facebook page has well over 20,000 subscribers and a massive list of models: female and male. I have always been a fan of ‘alt’ models myself. Not just because they are stunning, but they are often hugely creative people. I had done some artwork for a few alt girls as I am working on a book of art based on that subject. Basically Ashley approached me with the idea of creating a special tribute/celebration poster based on the ultimate examples of every section of the alternative model community such as pin up, horror, cyber, and those who inspired her to start TAMD. So that is what I am working on and so far it’s coming along brilliantly. Hopefully if all is well, you will see the finished result early 2013.
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You’ve recently created a gorgeous tribute to Amy Winehouse with proceeds going directly to the Amy Winehouse Foundation. What inspired you to do so? Amy Winehouse, to me, was probably the finest vocal talent to come along in a very long time. My fiancé and I listened to her music throughout the early part of our relationship. When we moved in together we played “Frank” and “Back to Black” while unpacking boxes so the music will always remind us of starting our life together and always take us back to that time. It was sad when her troubles started and the whole era of her drugs and alcohol always seemed to be frustrating to watch via a TV or newspaper. I was very upset when she died and had often thought of creating some kind of art, as she seemed such a vibrant subject for my style of work. Near the one-year anniversary of her death, I was up late (again) one night and just did the piece in one sitting. It was suggested I sell prints of the work as a lot of people wanted to buy one so the natural decision was to do that in aid of the foundation.
or mobile phone. I read a quote that said something like “I used to wish I could read people’s thoughts, but then I got Facebook and now I’m over it.” This is so true. The mystery of what lies in the deepest, darkest recesses of the mind is not something anyone cares about anymore. The answer seems to be food, TV, and porn.
Your drag persona at times looks like it’s straight out of one of your art pieces. Have you ever found that your drag illusion overshadows your graphic design work or draws attention to it? It’s been largely positive. I do make an effort to keep the two things separate and I’d say my art has been noticed on its own merits, but for certain instances my drag persona has certainly got my foot through the door and I do what can to stand out from the crowd which, in my case, is becoming art myself. There are certain people that I have done artwork for that I never would have met had it not been for my cross-dressing. On the flip side, I’m sure it has also lost me some work. SomeWhile social networking has helped underground artists, times you can be just too alternative for some people. Even it has become rather annoying. What are your thoughts those who claim to be ‘underground’ and ‘edgy’ lose their cool on the social networking platforms we are currently forced when you throw a tranny in the mix, but hey ho that’s life. to utilize? I use the most well known platform myself and I’d describe You’re 40 and you’re absolutely gorgeous. What have you it as a love/hate thing. Yes, for artists it is a good platform to done to protect your health, your image, and your fabuat least be seen and it has many positive sides to it as far as lousness (if anything)? making the world a smaller place, getting in touch with lost relaYears ago, I was out of work for a long time, not the happitives, and all that nice warm fuzzy stuff. est person in the world, and I slept a lot. We are talking almost On the other hand, yes it is annoying. Large chunks of cryogenic sleep so that must be it. people who use that site should not be allowed on a computer No seriously, I don’t know. I don’t do anything particularly physically active. I’m just one of those people who looks a bit younger than I am. Even out of drag I have graying hair, but most people think I am in my late 20’s early 30’s. I think I’ll be like Keith Richards and everything I’ve ever done to harm my body will catch up with me overnight and I will wake up one morning an old man in a dress and bandana.
Daz Girling Prints are available at
www.dazgirlinggraphics.com Facebook art page www.facebook.com/dazgraphics
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BY PAU L A FR A N K
aking a career out of music was not something the five guys of The Drowning Men every really thought about. They just wanted to make songs and play them, but with the focus entirely on crafting good tunes, the career couldn’t help but come along. With a wide range of influences coming from each member of the band, The Drowning Men create music that is indescribable and far-reaching. With the release of their second full length album, All of the Unknown, The Drowning Men and their unique folk sound have staked their claim on the minds and ears of listeners around the world. Lead singer/songwriter, Nato Bardeen, shares with Fourculture how this talented group got to where they are now and their plans to keep making music well into the future. While their album may be “All of the Unknown,” The Drowning Men are certainly poised to be well known.
You guys have played on and off in various musical projects. How did you finally land together as The Drowning Men? We're from a little community of musicians in Oceanside, CA, who've grown up together and played in bands together off and on since we were in high school. So it just kind of happened, I guess. I quit the project I was in before this and called up Rory to see if he wanted to try something new from what we were used to doing in the past together. He said he was in, and eventually we got James and Todd. I soon realized we needed some dueling keyboards and I found this guy, Ryan, to help. He eventually quit to pursue school and we found the wonderful Gabriel to take his place on the keys.
arsenal. Everything from bouzoukis to theremins, and music saws to tin whistles and autoharps, I play them enough to know how to get by on them. I believe our full sound comes from the hint of punk in us. We play loud and proud.
You signed with Borstal Beat Records, Flogging Molly’s new label. How did you find the experience of working within a label and with a producer for your latest album, All of the Unknown? Borstal Beat Records were amazing to us. They said "Here you go, make an album..." and totally let us do whatever we wanted. It's been a wonderful relationship with them. Working with Billy Mohler, our producer, was a songwriter's dream. He's very bright and helped me, as well as the other guys, There is a tone and musicality to your become better musicians. sound that seems a sort of interesting mix of folk with a hint of punk, which we’ve What were the biggest differences benot heard before. What are your musical tween recording your first albums, Kill the backgrounds and how have you combined Matador and Beheading of the Songbird as compared to All of the Unknown? How do those into what you are creating now? Yeah, both folk and punk are there in you feel you developed between them? The biggest difference is we put Kill The our tunes. Myself and two others in the band grew up with a huge punk influence Matador and Beheading of the Songbird out in our youth. I personally loved the Brit- on our own. We had no backing or any inish punk of the late 70's and early 80's . I terest at all from labels. We weren't looking still love it. I really started getting into folk for any of this either. We were just trying to music in my early twenties. Bluegrass and write good songs and in some way progIrish folk created a whole new world for ress as musicians. I believe we have more me in music...it still does. Whatever we as dynamics in the songs now then the two songwriters listen to or respect, we put out previous albums before. in some way or the other in our music. I've personally tried for years now not to have a As a band, do you lead the songs or do punk sound with the band, but punk is stub- you let the songs lead you? born and it refuses to leave my soul. As a band we lead the songs, but that's not until we let the songs lead us first. In the How many instruments do you all play beginning stage when I'm writing, it's very and how do you get such a full sound loose with a lot of fumbling around. I let the from a five man band? song move where it wants to go, twist and Speaking for myself, I love learning new turn and up and down, and then there it is. instruments and I have a lot of them in my I show the boys and we let their parts move
around too. It's when we figure all our parts out that we start to lead the song. What is your favorite song off of the new album? Can you even pick a favorite? How did you choose “Lost In a Lullaby” as the first single? Hmmmm...I don't know. Maybe "I am the Beggar Man." I just like the mood of it in its whole. We chose "Lost in Lullaby" because we felt it captured us and our overall mood. It was punk, it was folk, it was sad and driven by a haunting sweetness. The song “Smile” seems to have really resonated with fans. Where did this song come from and why do you think it has become a favorite among listeners? Yeah, we're super happy with this song and how it turned out. It came from a riff and a vocal melody that I was playing over and over again on the acoustic guitar. It sounded really folky. When I showed it to the boys they loved it and we just worked on it. I wrote the lyrics the day before I had to sing it
in the studio and I thought to myself, where am I right now? I'm broke, I feel defeated in so many ways of my life but I'm doing and pursuing what I love. I'm writing a song. I think it goes well with the listeners because of its simplicity in the arrangement of the song. It's also probably the catchiest tune on the album. How do you keep your energy up for your incredible live shows on tour? To be honest, I'm a freaked out mess up there on stage. My nerves really get to me before we play so I can't enjoy our performance until it's over with. The crowds really keep us going on the road. Sometimes, it's just two people at our show in the middle of nowhere who drove five hours out of their town just to see us. They inspire us to play and to keep playing music on the road. We always want to play with passion and with wonderful expression, no matter how many people are there.
You’ve had the chance to tour with some great acts. What have you learned about touring and music in general from them that you don’t think you would have learned on your own? I think we all realized that you don't want any dead air between songs ( unless it's called for). When we first starting touring and opening up for bigger bands, we had too much dead air. It really makes a big change in the set when you focus not only on performing the music well, but paying attention to talking to the crowd and using interludes between songs. What has been the craziest place you have played on tour? Why? Playing the Fillmore in San Francisco was pretty crazy in a good way. We played three sold out shows there being support for three different amazing bands. It's just a historic venue with amazing sound.
Who takes the longest to pretty up their facial hair? Probably me, seeing how my mustache is the thinnest in shape and needs a little more attention than the others. Everyone else just kind of lets theirs go free...especially Gabe's. When you look back 50 years from now, what do you think will be the thing you were most proud of in your musical career? Just that I even had one will probably make me smile. What’s next for The Drowning Men? We're currently on a break from touring and enjoying the holidays with friends and family. We're playing a few shows locally and getting ready to rehearse some new songs I've been working on. I believe we will be in Europe during the springtime too. We've never played there so we're all pretty excited to get there and tour.
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The Universal Storyteller BY SEREN A BUTLER
PHOTOG R A PH BY J EREM Y SA FFER
PHOTOG R A PH BY JASO N MI LN ER
ometimes the true legends lie in plain sight.
Monte Pittman is a true guitar virtuoso whose likes haven’t been seen since the emergence of Steve Vai, Slash, or even Eddie Van Halen. After
successful solo shows and a multi-record setting
album release Pain, Love & Destiny he’s ready to do it again with the release of his latest endeavor
MP3: The Power of
Three, Pt. 1, a three-installment album series displaying the versatility of Monte Pittman as a singer/songwriter and all around musician. From the display of his last album, we’re sure to expect nothing short of a storytelling experience. So open your eyes and ears ladies and gents because Monte Pittman is ready to shred his way into the history books.
Your albums so far could be described as an aural cinematic experience, displaying you as not only a songwriter but as a storyteller. What makes a songwriter a storyteller? Is there an artist/band and or album you feel has embodied the qualities of both storyteller/songwriter? Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime immediately come to mind. Those are about specific stories, though. I write from the heart and it just seems to come out that way. I don’t intentionally try to make a story with the succession of songs on an album. My new album seems to be turning into yet another story but I haven’t exactly figured out what yet. I think M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Pt. 1 is the end of the story… Your last album, Pain, Love & Destiny, has been a trendsetter on the charts, becoming the first album by an independent artist to crack the iTunes top 200 in its first week. When looking at your chart success, what goes through your mind? Do you feel this success has gained you some momentum going into your next project? The greatest thing to me about Pain, Love, & Destiny is that it’s been out over a year now and still people tell me they can’t stop listening to it and that it’s been in their cd player in their car since they got it. There have been quite a few people tell me that their kids love the album. Those are the things I look at as success. They are all going to be a little different from each other.
The Deepest Dark was my first album and it’s just acoustic guitar and vocals with some atmosphere thrown in — my using up the entire board at Paramount Studios with the best microphones they had. Pain, Love, & Destiny turned out to be a rock album. The next album is acoustic, heavy and blues. The idea is that I have a completely dynamite live show. My fourth album will be a live album and my fifth will be kind of like Radiohead’s The Bends. Or at least that’s one element. That one is all in pieces at the moment. Flemming Rasmussen (Metallica, Morbid Angel, Blind Guardian) is producing your current album, M.P.3.: The Power of Three, Part 1. What drew you to want to work with Mr. Rasmussen for this project? What can we expect in comparison to your previous work? He’s always been one of my favorite producers and he’s made three of my favorite albums. We met a few years back and stayed in contact. We discussed working together and this time when I was coming through Copenhagen, he booked out the studio. We were just going to see what happened and we wound up with four songs done in one day. I like how he records everything like it’s an orchestra. M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Pt 1 are four stripped down acoustic songs. M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Pt. 2 is going to be the heaviest album I can make. That seems to be what a lot of people tell me they want to hear from me. So I’m giving it to them and then some. M.P.3: The Power Of Three, Pt. 3 will be blues based.
“I WANT TO BE AN ARTIST THAT HAS SOMETHING THERE FOR EVERYBODY.” For the next two albums slated to follow the release of Pt. 1, you’re said to be going in two different musical directions. What sound are you aiming for in each album? Can you tell us who you’ll be working with in the next installments? It will be me, Kane Ritchotte on drums, and Max Whipple on bass. Pain, Love, & Destiny is just me & Kane with the exception of Kelle Rhoads on piano and some guest backing vocalists though a Kickstarter incentive. I didn’t meet Max until right after recording Pain, Love, & Destiny. If all goes according to plan, I may have a couple of guests on the next one if their schedule permits. I have some friends I want to ask… A big resource for Indie artists are fanfunding sites like Pledge Music and Kickstarter. You raised an amazing $65,000 dollars from an original goal of 5,000 via Kickstarter. How has it affected you personally since your record-setting campaign for Pain, Love, & Destiny? How do you feel the indie music scene has evolved with the advent of such sites? It gave me a way to make the album how I wanted to make it. I thought if anything, I could mix what I had done on my own and put that out. A lot of people have asked me to do another one so I think I am. It gives them a way to be involved. There are a lot of things I wouldn’t do again. It’s so much work making an album and having to fulfill some of these incentives was overwhelming. I wouldn’t send out CD’s for the amount it was before. I also wouldn’t attempt to write out all of the lyrics on the album artwork! If you mess up one letter on your ninth song, you have to start all over. I think things like Kickstarter have definitely helped the indie scene. I have friends that funded their tours this way. It hasn’t just affected putting out albums. You’ve experienced virtually every kind of environment in the musical arena with your various musical endeavors. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned out of your experiences with small versus large productions? Do you have a preference? Keep yourself versatile, humble, and always ready to entertain. I love playing stadiums and I love playing small clubs. It’s kind of like choosing which one is your favorite kid.
One of the biggest honors for a talented musician is to be given an opportunity to design their own instrument or be given their own instrument line. That became a reality for you this year through Jarrell Guitars when the MPS Series was released. When you were approached by the company to have your own guitar designed, what was your general feeling overall? What was the design process like? I didn’t know how I could have one guitar that I could put my name on because there are so many different styles I have to tackle. The MPS does do it all though. I’ve put it up against all of my other guitars and it blows them away. I got a Jarrell guitar and fell in love with it. I think they are the best of a new guitar company to come out so being associated with that in itself is a huge honor. For the design process, we exchanged ideas back and forth. I would have an idea, then Phillip Jarrell would have an idea. That cycle would continue until we created the final product.
when I’m in different parts of the world. There might be a band I don’t listen to a lot at home but if I’m on the other side of the planet, I can’t get enough of it. It has helped when I’m writing and want to keep things as universal as possible. I want to be an artist that has something there for everybody. That’s something I have in common with Madonna and one of the reasons we have always worked so well together is because we love just about every style of music. Earlier in 2012, you and your Madonna bandmate, Brian Frasier-Moore, took some time to remix the Bon Iver hit “Calgary” for the Indabamusic contest. Now, we must ask, since the public hasn’t seen many remixes out of you, is this just a one-off endeavor or will we be hearing more in the future? How does the remixing process differ for you in lieu of your standard music writing? I love Bon Iver. I can say they are a huge modern day influence on me. There is a site called Indaba and I saw Justin Vernon tweet out about that they were having a remix contest. I was basically just making it like I was playing guitar for them for fun. Brian Frasier-Moore released a drum sample CD this year so I added his drum samples in there. Any time I can do something with him, I’m always up for it. We also played together on the album Beg For Mercy. That album is just me, Brian, and Adam Lambert on vocals. We’re on the Sticky And Sweet Tour Live album and DVD. Also, we just filmed the MDNA tour in Miami. So it’s always great having some recordings with Brian. I have looked into doing more remixes when I have time.
Outside of your musical endeavors you are quite a charitable guy, bringing attention to the need for musical education in schools. What for you is the most important factor of spreading music education throughout the world? Did you have a moment in your childhood with music that impacted you for your charitable drive? Well, I’m a guitar teacher. I always especially loved teaching kids who have never played so I can start them off with every detail they need to build the foundation of their guitar playing. I wanted to play guitar since I was 3 but I didn’t actually get a real guitar until I was 13. Musical instruments can be expensive. So I know what it’s like If you had the power to make your own being a kid and not be able to have a guitar. super group to headline a show like the halftime show, who would you put in You rocketed to the ears of the music lov- your super group and why? What would ing public as the guitarist/guitar teacher you name your super group? If I can ever play the Super Bowl it would of the queen of pop herself, Madonna. You’ve toured with her since 2001 and be me, Kane, and Max. Of course Madonna you’ve experienced areas of the world would have to be invited. I would want Alex that many of us have only dreamed Skolnick on lead, Tommy Victor from Prong about. What was the most unique as- in there somewhere, Xander Smith on pect of seeing the global unification of acoustic. It would be like a massive guitar fans around one artist? How has that orchestra if they ever asked me and I would get my friends who I already play affected or inspired you as you release probably with. That is my super group! your music? Music actually sounds different to me
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BY SER EN A BUTLER PHOTOG R A PHS BY BETH RI LE Y
nce upon a time, 117 years ago inside Walter Robotics, a unique robotic band was born. Comprised of The Spine (David Michael Bennett), Rabbit (Bunny Bennett), and the newest addition, Hatchworth (Sam Luke), along with their handy humans, Michael Philip Reed and Steve Negrette, they would collectively be known as Steam Powered Giraffe. 2012 brought the release of their newest album, 2 Cent Show, a concept album showcasing their incredible harmonies and unique style. After funding a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, their dedicated fan base has missioned to press their most popular video, “Honeybee,” to a million views by New Year’s 2013. There are nearly 50 million things you can say about Steam Powered Giraffe, but there’s only so much room on the page. They may just be a group of talented folk from southern California, but with their steampunk style, hilarious antics, musical talents, and artistic endeavors, Steam Powered Giraffe is not just a band; Steam Powered Giraffe is a true experience. We were honored to have none other than Bunny Bennett tell us all about it.
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Steam Powered Giraffe had a humble beginning as buskers in the streets of Balboa Park. What do you feel is the biggest change from busking to stage shows? As busking is quite a great fan interaction experience, how would you say your fan interaction has grown since the busking days? Our roots as street performers definitely give us the improvisational edge, I’d say. I’ve seen the guys stall for 15 minutes with the audience glued and laughing while we sorted out technical hiccups backstage. The intimacy you have with your audience while busking is special though. It’s a kind of clumsy magic where people can really see the performer as a real person between shows and even during. They’re a foot away from you and will most likely shout things at you, interrupt, and respond to what you’re saying. It keeps you on your toes. Our impromptu rebuttals were always a highlight for me, and we’d often break character laughing from being caught off guard by the silliness. It was a valuable learning experience for us as entertainers. After years of doing shows on the streets I don’t think we can ever shake the effects — it carries into our stage shows when we start talking to the audience and cameras. And even though we work with a script, there are so many great moments of spontaneity up there that are situational and unique to every show. And yes, we still have moments of breaking that third wall! Sometimes it feels like everyone on stage is purposely trying to get the others to laugh. You lose a lot of the personal intimacy with the performer when you’re up on stage, but I believe the connection folks have with the characters is strengthened when magnified in such a theatrical venue. In that respect the growth of the act has taken fan interaction to a different place, but the magic is still there. Luckily, we still take the time after shows to chat with fans as real people, which I think folks really enjoy. When listening to your latest album The 2 Cent Show each and every song is a little story within itself. When writing the music for SPG how do you come up with such storytelling magic? Do you build from life experience? We all have stories to tell, and I think as artists we naturally see ourselves as storytellers. You, of course, have the obvious story with the robots performing as a band. Then there’s the stories told with music and art. Isolated, each piece should stand on its own, and together hopefully they make something that feels connected and part of the same universe. The thematic elements and the encouragement of using your imagination are all 32 www.fourculture.com | ISSUE FOUR
“Rabbit has grown unusual over the years so I’d say he’s now quite comfortably the zany one.” aspects we try to imbue in the work. We’re the product of enjoying many movies and books in our childhoods. I think all aspiring entertainers want to capture the same magic they felt as children watching their favorite film or reading their favorite novel. SPG has a very elaborate background story. What gave you the idea to work off a fictional story and develop a character line? The ideas floated around for years as a skeleton when we came up with the band. The back story was there, but didn’t have much more than a simplistic time line on our website. It wasn’t until a few years ago we really started delving into the universe and expanding the story. With a name like “Steam Powered Giraffe,” we wanted to finally make real sense of why the band is called that- and the write up we did discovered that nicely. The story of this engineer building a big clockwork giraffe for a girl he was sweet on has this sort of fairytale feel that fit perfectly in our whimsical act. Folks seem to have taken a liking to it, and we’re expecting to further grow the story with our graphic novel and strengthen the themes of these scientist characters. You guys are applying your makeup for upwards of 90 minutes prior to each performance. How did each of you come up with the initial design for each of your respective robotic makeup? How have your looks evolved since the band’s conception? Honestly when we first started it was more like: what do you think a robot looks like? Over the years we changed a little here and there, influenced by the art we worked in, the songs, and the costume changes. These days there’s a lot more thought going into it naturally. The robots sort of have a technological progression from Rabbit to The Spine and we try and reflect that in their designs. The limitation then becomes what looks good on stage, so there’s a constant simplification and expansion of ideas. At the end of the day you’re still just painting someone’s face without the use of a prosthetic, so you need to work with the strengths of each person’s natural appearance.
It’s becoming a theme with artists of today where the artist is very hands-on — taking creative direction, editing, or straight. Have you felt that having a hand in your videos has benefited you in any way that maybe other artists with extensive funding have yet to experience? If so, in which way do you feel that it has assisted your growth in further SPG videos, DVDs, etc.? Yeah. You know, we never could restrict ourselves to just doing one thing. We’re utilizing all our talents and luckily between all twelve folks working for us we have a nice array of specialties. It’s nice to do things yourself when you can, because you want to preserve that artistic integrity. But we feel we’re reaching a point in the group where we can’t do everything ourselves. It’s impossible because there are only so many of us. We utilize our talents the best we can and work within our budgetary and time constraints. It’s a multifaceted issue having all this control over your work, but our main priority is a good product — so however we execute something, it’s done for the benefit of the act and not just the individuals. We want it to sound good. We want it to look good! Speaking of visuals, your shows aren’t just concerts…they’re more of a theater spectacle. How do you come up with your more comical sketches? Is it an improvisational bit or is there an actual script you all follow? Has there been a time where you’ve broken out of character? Before we started busking, a lot of our members were part of an improv troupe. We didn’t actually do many shows, but we did do about two year’s worth of training and learning to play off of each other. During that same time we were doing theatrical shows at the local college — everything from comical Shakespeare to gritty dramas. We were also learning mime and our instructor, Jerry Hager, hooked us up with a few gigs around town as white-faced mimes. That led to our work at children’s summer camps portraying pirates and cowboys. All of these little stints aided in our development of improv and playing with the audience. The result is what you see. We took all our theatrical knowledge and bled it into the act. It has taken years to sculpt it in this organic way, but the experience is priceless. ISSUE FOUR
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So the word is that Hatchworth is a sandwich making robot. Is there a recipe that will be released to the public releasing the contents of a Mystery Sandwich? If so, would you kindly divulge the ingredients for us? It’s funny because we were just talking about a Steam Powered Giraffe themed restaurant for fun. The Hatchworth Mystery Sandwich immediately came up. Maybe we’ll release a cookbook one day? I don’t know, maybe after the Steam Powered Giraffe tube socks and toothpaste. Rumor has it you aren’t fans of doing covers as it has been said “we aren’t a cover band.” What are your thoughts when you hear other bands doing covers? What is your preferred answer to those asking for a cover song? Cover songs were great when we were just starting out and didn’t have much original material. You have to start somewhere. But due to the unique nature of the act it felt a lot better to perform unique songs. Their popularity grew early on and eventually we stopped doing covers altogether. Steam Powered Giraffe is among Kickstarter’s success stories raising $10,000 from your initial goal of $3,000. For those who aren’t so great at math that’s a funding of 359% which put you guys on tour. How have such sites like Kickstarter been beneficial to your band as shoestring budget artists? Are there any other plans for a future campaign via Kickstarter? We were aiming quite low with our goals for Kickstarter — which made the excess very awesome! Imagine if we had set out with a bigger project in mind. We were just funding a little tour! Crowd-funding has been integral in getting merchandise made for us too. Pre-orders originally funded a lot of our products when we didn’t have any funds. Recently we’ve been able to travel and perform for free at venues due to fans donating money to get us to play in their area. Kickstarter is a wonderful tool to make these things happen. It’s all about putting the power into the fans’ hands. Bunny, can you tell us how the comic book came about? Will we be seeing printed versions of the comic at your merchandise booths in the near future? It’s my goal to make a printed version of the graphic novel, but obviously writing and drawing the book is an arduous process.
I’m glad we have something on the web for people to look at, because the response has been great. Hopefully it gets finished sooner rather than later! Each of the robots have their own little quirks that make them quite unique. How did each of you conceptualize the creation of your respective character? What about the ideas of each of your individual backstories such as the Victorian era mechanics in Rabbit to the cast iron stove core of Hatchworth? How did your looks come about as well? I suppose I do a lot of work in the lore section of the group, but I’m always influenced by the traits and personalities of the actors portraying the robots. The back stories come from working with the performers, and we always strive to bring the characters to life with our own quirkiness. David (The Spine) always knew he wanted to play the straight man of the group. Sure, he cracks jokes and has some really funny moments, but it’s all usually in the context that he’s this really stoic, rigid robot. Sam (Hatchworth) really wanted to play up the endearing ignorance and humbleness of a robot put in storage for many years. A lot of his humor is just having misinterpreted concepts of human life. Myself as Rabbit came first as being the middle man bridge between more aggressive personality spectrums. However, Rabbit has grown unusual over the years so I’d say he’s now quite comfortably the zany one. In the summer time you performed 74 shows, 4x a day, every day at the San Diego Zoo. This, for many artists, is a task in itself usually needing a long time off. What was the most difficult aspect of playing all those shows? What was best about playing the Zoo (besides hanging out with animals)? Would you ever do a long standing gig like that again? It’s indeed a very trying gig, and unique all its own. We used last summer and the one before to hone our abilities in mime and music and got very good at playing together. That many days straight really tightened the act. It wasn’t as exhausting as it sounds, though it is indeed physically exerting and with no time off to do anything else it was mentally fatiguing. We’d do it again in a heartbeat, but I don’t think such a unique run of shows happens often. Usually these long runs are at theme parks. Could we do it at, say, Disneyland? I think we’d be a great fit.
We, at Fourculture, believe you may be selling the most diabolical looking instrument that has ever graced the face of the earth. How in the world did you come up with the idea of selling a kazookaphone in your online store (they’re 8 dollars plus s&h). Are you guilty of playing this kazoo in any of your albums or shows? What songs has the kazoo graced? The Kazookaphone comes from the minds of Kazoobie Kazoos, an American Kazoo factory who went wild with attachment options. We paired up with them to sell the most ridiculous looking instrument they could make. It’s entirely absurd, but very amusing. With a phonograph and bugle horn and sleek black and red colors — who knew kazoos could be so cool? The idea originated with Michael Reed, our musical arranger, who wrote a kazooheavy song called Make Believe. He suggested handing out free kazoos so the audience could play along. It proved so popular we came up with the branded Kazookaphone, which is essential at any Steam Powered Giraffe concert! We encourage folks to use them at different times during our show in addition to singing harmonies on certain songs. You’d be surprised if you listen to some of the YouTube videos of our live performances. The effect of using the audience as an instrument/harmony part is pretty effective! Not to mention a ton of fun. For those who now love you because you aren’t robots bent on human destruction (or are you…?). You have a bit of a fan program of sorts called the “Engineer-eteers” in which the soon to be Engineer-eteer pays what they feel their membership is worth to get SPG exclusives and updates weekly. Was there an inspiration behind the “pay as you feel” concept? How have your fans embraced the Engineer-eteer program? The brain child is a musician named John Pointer who started Patronism.com for artists just like us. I believe we’ve had some of the most success with the program, because our fans are very passionate! There’s always a lot of behind the scenes stuff we shoot and share and for the dedicated fans it is a window into our creative process and lets us connect with them on a level otherwise impossible. It humanizes the act and lets them react to our work before it gets to the public eye. It’s an invaluable tool and we’re happy that there are so many folks who want to see us succeed and give us a few bucks a month to ensure it!
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BY PAU L A FR A N K
ere at Fourculture, we are all about unearthing the underground, and we were lucky enough to connect with author Stephen Blackmoore. It was a sure fit. With his crime blog, LA Noir, Stephen Blackmoore delves into the underground of crime in Los Angeles. Likewise, his fiction unearths the gritty, the unspeakable, the life that lives in the shadows. Above all, he never takes it too seriously, which is really what it’s all about. His novel, City of the Lost, has the tagline “Joe Sunday’s dead. He just hasn’t stopped moving yet,” and the fast paced storyline that follows is no disappointment. Set to release the follow up, Dead Things, in 2013, we couldn’t wait to introduce you to this author of the underbelly. From crime in the city of angels to a unique look at life as a zombie, delve into the mind of Stephen Blackmoore. You write in several different genres, although most of the time you are referred to as “pulp” and “noir.” How would you describe what you write and do you purposefully enjoy crossing the genres such as horror and noir? Does that work? Saying what it is? Then I’d like it to be “entertaining,” “profitable,” and maybe throw in something there about strippers and blow. Oh, and “ginormous.” I like that word. You know, just because. I think I might have been the one who started calling myself a pulp writer. But if it was somebody else, thanks. I mean it. That label has helped a lot. I don’t really see pulp as a genre. It covers too many bases. You can write crime, westerns, science fiction, horror and it can still be pulp. I really think it’s more a label for a particular type of writer. There’s this weird thing that writers do. All writers do. We take our shit too seriously. Like it’s art, or something. Like it matters. And that’s fine for some writers. They are making art. They are changing the world. I’m not one of those. I couldn’t art my way out of a paper bag, so why try? I’m not saying that I’m not shooting for quality, I am. But I’m more interested in craft than art, function over beauty. To me it’s like the difference between carpentry and sculpting. Doesn’t mean you can’t create beautiful things with either one, but their purpose is different. Rodin’s The Kiss is beautiful but you can’t sit on it. I can write an entertaining, fun, frightening, sad, angry, beautiful story that holds together well, but it won’t be art. At least not to me. That pulp label helps remind me that I can
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do those things without taking it too seriously. And that really cuts down on the stress. Noir’s different. Noir is a genre. It’s got conventions, though I think they’re maybe not as obvious as some people think. It’s not fedoras and trench coats. It’s doom and nightmares. It’s people pushing themselves too far and failing. It’s jumping out of a fifteen story window and thinking ten stories down, “So far, so good.” In a lot of ways it’s actually very optimistic. Up until the end these poor bastards keep believing they can somehow win. A lot of what I write is dark and I naturally gravitated toward noir and horror. There’s a lot of potential cross-over between the two, though I think horror tends to be more visceral and noir more cerebral. And I can already think of half a dozen examples of the opposite. That cross-over has always fascinated me. One of the things about crossing genres is that it opens things up. You never have to play with or, in some cases, fall into the trap of a particular genre’s tropes, but it’s easy to do. When you cross genres it’s easier to throw those tropes out or twist them around in interesting ways. I enjoy that. In my novel CITY OF THE LOST I purposefully did both. Oddly enough when you mix something like crime and horror you get urban fantasy. Who knew? How did you get started writing your crime blog, L.A. Noir? Do these true life crimes ever end up influencing your own fiction writing? First off, and I say this as way of disclaimer, L.A. Noir can be really goddamn depressing. There is some tragic shit in
there. There’s also some really fucking funny shit in there, too. So, if you go poking around, be forewarned. I was writing for a Los Angeles community blog called LA Voice. Commentary on the city, politics, things like that. Sadly, defunct now. We actually won a couple of LA Press Club awards for Best Weblog. 2005 and 2007, I think. I was writing a lot about city politics, schools, police, community problems, things like that. This was around the time Martin Luther King Jr. hospital in Watts, the ONLY public hospital in Watts, was losing its accreditation because people kept dying. The coroner’s office was stacking bodies three to a drawer and the LAPD was under a Federal consent decree because of police corruption. You know, fun times. When you start looking at those kinds
of issues you’ll start to notice that they don’t exist in a vacuum. Crime is ALWAYS sitting somewhere in the middle of it. It might be small. It might be hidden. It might just be the ocean that the thing you’re looking at has to swim in and hopefully keep its head above water, but it’s there. Sometimes it’s direct, like the Rampart scandal that led to the consent decree. And sometimes it’s indirect, like all of the crime in South Los Angeles that MLK had to deal with in their trauma center on a daily basis. But either way all of these things are connected to and influenced by crime. And nobody was talking about it. Really. I looked. There were a few crime blogs, but they were all high profile crimes across the nation. Nobody was saying anything about crime in Los Angeles. And nothing small. It was all serial killers and big money crimes. Not tweakers who stab
some kid for his lunch money or some guy off his meds who blows his ex-wife’s house up with a SWAT team standing outside. There were news stories and facts and figures and all that, but no commentary. Even the L.A. Times hadn’t started their Homicide Report and though the Daily News had great coverage, they weren’t really looking at it from a blog perspective. So I figured what the hell and started writing about it. And it’s been educational. Fucked up a lot of the time, because there is some nasty shit that goes on in this town, but educational. And sometimes really goddamn funny. Like these guys who knocked over a check cashing place in Gardena. They’re driving away and the cops, who don’t know they’re the ones who robbed the place, are passing them from the other direction. One guy decides to open the money bag.
And the dye pack goes off in his face blowing out the windows and scattering cash all across the street. Right in front of the cops. That right there is comedy gold. One of the things about doing L.A. Noir is that I’ve realized how valuable it is for writing prompts. Without realizing it I’ve pulled together this huge database of story ideas and plot lines. If I want to write a crime story I can just pull up the blog and there are a couple hundred sitting right there. And I’ve done that. There are some things that show up in CITY OF THE LOST that are inspired by things I dug up for L.A. Noir. A couple of those stories, though, are ones I’ve look back on and thought, yeah, that was good, but am I somehow complicit in the situation because I’m using a real event, a horrifying event, as story fodder, even though that’s what writers do? ISSUE FOUR
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That raises all sorts of weird questions and interesting moral dilemmas. It’s one thing to say, “I’m writing a story inspired by Jack the Ripper” and another to say, “I’m writing a story inspired by the murder of a 15-year-old girl at her graduation party last month.” Does fictionalizing it serve to help prevent that in the future or did I somehow sensationalize it by talking about it at all? Or does neither apply? Or both? And what, really, is the difference? Are they different? Does time and distance make a Jack the Ripper story okay but the other isn’t? Does it make a difference that one happened in the 1880s and the other happened in 2006? Yes, this is the sort of shit I think about at three in the morning. Welcome to my brain. By the way, that story? The true one? The guys who pulled the trigger were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2010. The whole situation is actually more depressing and tragic, real Lord of The Flies shit, if you can believe that, but we don’t need to go into that here. That’s another weird thing about writing the blog. I find myself compelled to follow up on some of these. Like digging through arrest records sorts of compelled. Looking for other stories and matching names to see what happened after the initial story. Just because someone was arrested, that’s not the end of it. Sometimes that’s just the beginning. Sometimes I get pulled into following up on these. It’s been a while, but I get some strange email. It’s kind of surprising how often I’ve been mistaken for a private detective or a journalist and asked if I could help find something out for someone. It’s sad when that happens, but I’ve actually been able to put some people’s minds at ease if only in simple ways and it’s been worth it. There are several crimes you have written about that are pretty crazy, but have there been any you have come across that have been so screwed up you wondered whether you should even write about them? Which have tickled your proverbial funny bone the most? There have been a couple, particularly one in which an estranged ex-husband dressed up as Santa Claus and on Christmas eve went to his wife’s family dinner, shot everybody, including the eight-yearold girl who answered the door to see Santa with a gun in his hand (she survived — many didn’t), then burned the place to the ground with an improvised flamethrower. The fire department couldn’t put out the blaze for hours because ammunition in the house kept cooking off making it too dangerous to enter. The only possible bright spot in all this is that the murderer managed to light himself on fire too, accidentally if the plane tickets in his possession were any indication. He was
badly burned and ultimately shot himself to death in his driveway when he got home. Ultimately I wrote about it. I think these are stories that need to be told. Or maybe I just think they’re stories that I need to tell myself. Less cautionary tales and more, I don’t know, pitfalls on a moral road. Signs that say Bridge Out. Here Be Tygers. Don’t Be Like This Asshole, Kids, You’ll Go To Jail And Learn The Sweet Taste Of Pruno And The Rough Love Of A Much Larger Man. I pick and choose the stories, obviously, and I’m actually a lot more choosy now than when I started. That said I won’t shy away from something really screwed up, though I might shy away from it only because it doesn’t grab my attention as much as something else does. As to funny (and yes, still tragic on all sorts of levels), my favorite is the short, wild ride of Aaron Clay Tanner, another Christmas tale as luck would have it. From the blog: Aaron Clay Tanner has problems with impulse control. This is evidenced by the multiple stab wounds his mother suffered from him while in his car on the 14 Freeway near Mission Hills yesterday afternoon. And by the fact that he then threw her out onto the busy road. After which he crashed into a car at the bottom of the Newhall Avenue off-ramp, attacking a woman and carjacking her PT Cruiser. With her 4-year-old son inside. The PT Cruiser was found by a Deputy a few miles down the road, where Tanner had rear-ended yet another vehicle and then backed into a tree. While the Deputy went to help the child in the car, Tanner ran around and stole another car. The Deputy’s car. He crashed that, too. Rolled it even. Down a hill. Where it caught fire. Then, because you know this fun train just ain’t stoppin’, the locks holding the squad car’s shotgun in place came loose. Yeah. On the plus side Deputies got to him before he got to the shotgun. Hauled him out of the car. So he bit them. In return they Tasered him. A lot. By my count that’s five crashed cars, four stab wounds, three injured victims, two traumatized mothers and one batshit crazy fucker in lockup. Only seven days left of Christmas to fill up and we could have had a song. What made you decide on a zombie as the main character in your first novel, City of the Lost? I’ve been wondering about that a lot, lately. You’d think I’d have had an intelligent answer in place, you know, before the book ISSUE FOUR
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actually came out. I’m still not sure I have one yet. Originally, I thought it was because I wanted a character that I could just beat up continuously and, like Mannix at the end of every episode, leave with nothing more than an arm in a sling. If that. In case you hadn’t noticed I’m a little obsessed with Los Angeles. It fascinates me. And not the shit that most people talk about. Like the movie industry. That has got to be the most boring, self-involved industry in an already self-involved town. It’s a kind of recursive narcissism that would give M.C. Escher fits if he tried to draw it. But the thing about L.A. is that for all the glamour people see on television and the movies, none of which actually exists, it’s a seedy town. And it’s a beautiful town. It’s perfectly normal and fine and attractive. Until it isn’t. And I’ve started to wonder if Joe Sunday is my metaphor for it. He’s psychotic. He’s a shark who swims with other sharks and so he doesn’t really pay attention to anything that isn’t a shark. He’s good looking, attractive, strong. He’s a monster who doesn’t look like a monster. Until he starts to rot and peel and fall apart and then very much does. And I think that’s L.A. in a nutshell. The main character, Joe Sunday, is not an upstanding society member to begin with and then gets thrust quite suddenly into the world of the supernatural. How did you approach his character in order to keep him sympathetic and likable to the reader? Is he? I hope so. I wonder about that sometimes. I think keeping the story in first person helped. Joe has doubts. He has ethics, though they’re not necessarily ones that most people would recognize as such. He has a very narrow world-view and having this brand new one thrown at him has him spun. I think if I’d written it in third person where all you saw was what he did and how he did it you’d think, “Man, this guy’s an asshole.” But I think that being in his head and seeing him freaking out and hearing how he feels about some of the things he does and has done and why he does them, gives a reader a closer hook into his world of moral ambiguity. I think it also helps that he’s not an unreliable narrator. He tells you what he knows. I wanted to make sure I never had him lie to the reader. I think that was important. That’s building a different kind of trust with a reader. If he had been an unreliable narrator it would have had to be a very different story and I think it would have fallen apart. Hopefully, if I’ve done my job right, even though he does some pretty heinous shit, readers can feel like they understand him a little, sympathize with him a little, and stick around for the ride hoping that he’ll ultimately win out. Even if they don’t condone his actions. You have quite a few crazy characters in your book, most of which have maybe been addressed before in fiction (wizards, 42 www.fourculture.com | ISSUE FOUR
dealing with here. But I tried to do that with everything, tried to twist preconceived notions. The magic isn’t good or evil. It just is. It’s a tool to be used. If you want to use it for bad things it doesn’t care. That’s bothered some people. There isn’t much black or white in this book, just a big, gray smear. Some people don’t like moral relativism, much less ambiguity. Some of the things I wanted to twist were in, I hope, more subtle ways. Sunday, for example, the professional thug who sticks people’s arms down garbage disposals for a living is actually less terrifying to me than the driven, liberal, sociology grad who will stop at nothing to make sure that her strung-out vampires are taken care of in her own twisted, pragmatic way. I want to make sure that anything I do is, at least as much as it can be, somewhat unique. I didn’t want to go over the same territory that others have done a thousand times if I could help it. Sometimes that’s worked and somewitches, vampires, etc), but you add your times not so much. own unique nuances to them. Was there a Dead Things, your follow up novel to City concerted effort on your part to give these of the Lost, is coming out in February. characters the “Blackmoore spin” rather How did you approach this novel differthan keeping them more familiar? Do you ently than your first? What did you learn think it’s a necessity in this current vam- from completing the debut that helped you pire/zombie/werewolf craze that authors in writing this one? create these characters with a little someThere are a lot of differences between thing different? these two books and not just in terms of proThe Blackmoore Spin is a sex move that tagonists. CITY OF THE LOST was, in a lot involves chains, rope and a fleet of Morris of ways, a fish out of water story. Joe Sunday dancers that I perfected in college. Just so dies, comes back from the dead and has no idea you know. how to deal with things. Everything’s changed There actually was a concerted effort to and where he’s used to being the most compemake things different. Not too different, but dif- tent, dangerous guy in the room, he’s not. And ferent enough. I didn’t want to create cliché char- he doesn’t know how to deal with that. acters that had the reader thinking, “Oh, vampire, DEAD THINGS is more of a conventional, I know what that is.” I wanted them to say, “Oh, if such a word can be used, urban fantasy vampire, I — Wait a minute, that’s not right.” than CITY OF THE LOST. The protagonist, I went into the story, and I’ve tried to con- Eric Carter, is a necromancer who comes tinue it in DEAD THINGS, which deals with back to L.A. after fifteen years when he finds ghosts and Mesoamerican gods, with the in- out that his sister has been murdered. He’s an tent that I can use these things, ghosts, vam- expert on magic, particularly death magic. He pires, magic, all that, as long as I could tweak sees ghosts, talks to them, controls them to a it somehow. Take some of the tropes of urban certain extent, and though there are things he fantasy or horror and, not throw them on their doesn’t understand that push that expertise to ear so much as twist them a little to one side. the limit, he knows his world. He’s intimately I don’t think that it’s a necessity. I think there familiar with it. He’s lived with magic his whole will always be people looking for something fa- life. He’s lived with the dead his whole life. miliar and if you have vampires in your book His entire existence is defined by it. So he then goddamn it they want them to be blood- has a very different relationship with death sucking fiends, or sparkly faeries, or whatever it than most people. is that fits that reader’s expectations. That approach changed a lot of how I went I actually got a review that kind of drove about writing DEAD THINGS. Carter isn’t althat point home for me. It wasn’t a good re- ways the smartest guy in the room, but at least view and it wasn’t scathing. Kinda meh. But he knows what the hell is going on, whereas the guy’s chief complaint was that it said there Sunday usually didn’t. Carter’s the go to guy were vampires on the back cover and there for his particular field. And so that really is a weren’t enough in the book and they weren’t big change between these two stories. what vampires were supposed to be and I One thing in particular, writing a character want my vampire book now rawr! who has a smaller vocabulary than yourself And he was absolutely right. They barely will bite you in the ass. Joe Sunday isn’t stumake an appearance and in a lot of ways are pid, but he’s not particularly educated. So I really there just to show how wrong some found myself having to go back and do some characters pre-conceived notions are and rewrites to make sure he stayed consistent. also to show the reader that yes, in case you He’s not going to say “defenestrate.” He’s hadn’t noticed this is the kind of world we’re
going to say, “threw out the fucking window.” Carter’s more likely to say “threw out the fucking window,” too, but at least he knows what defenestrate means. So if he says it, it doesn’t stand out quite so much. Besides more freaks and fights, what can we expect from Dead Things? Ghosts. Lots and lots and lots of ghosts. Ghosts of dead people, ghosts of dead relationships, ghosts of the way things were and aren’t anymore. Carter goes back to his old stomping grounds and after fifteen years things have changed. Everybody’s moved on and after having spent that much time away they haven’t necessarily moved in a direction that has room for him anymore and he doesn’t really know what to do with that. And yeah, there are fights, and gunfire and magic. And an ancient Aztec Death Goddess who’s restyled herself as Santa Muerte. Favorite line you’ve ever written or read? Read. The opening from Victor Gischler’s GUN MONKEYS. “I turned the Chrysler onto the Florida Turnpike with Rollo Kramer’s headless body in the trunk, and all the time I’m thinking I should’ve put some plastic down.” I fucking love that line. What is the best cocktail to drink while reading your novels? I’m partial to Rob Roys and Manhattans, myself. Or Scotch neat. Something with some smoke to it. My books aren’t exactly fruity drink books. They’re rough around the edges, something all whiskeys have no matter how good they are. What secrets do you keep in the back of your dresser drawer? Here’s a thing about secrets. If I told them to you they wouldn’t be secrets. I hoard secrets. I’m the kind of guy who will sit and listen and store them away. And that’s it. They’re locked up. I won’t use them against you, I won’t tell anyone else. They won’t show up in my books. Secrets are important. We all have them. We all need something that’s exclusively ours and we all need someone we can trust with them.
Besides the release of Dead Things, what other surprises can we expect coming up from the mind of Stephen Blackmoore in 2013? KHAN OF MARS. This one couldn’t possibly be more different than DEAD THINGS and CITY OF THE LOST and as such it was actually a real stretch for me. It is, dare I say, family friendly. You can give it to your twelve year old with a clear conscience. It’s a tie-in novel for the 1930’s pulp adventure tabletop role-playing game Spirit Of The Century, by Evil hat Productions. The protagonist is a hyper-intelligent ape named Professor Khan who teaches at Oxford and is accidentally transported to Mars along with his sidekick, a trick-shooting gunslinger named Bulls-Eye, where they find themselves stuck in the middle of a power play against the evil Princess Cyclone who has command of the weather. Think Flash Gordon and John Carter only with a talking gorilla and a crazy, gun-toting cowboy tearing up the Martian landscape. It’s silly and fun and full of adventure and gunfights and chases across the desert. There is PERIL! DANGER! ROMANCE! And lots of rayguns. I don’t have a date for when it will be coming out, but it’s a two-parter. The sequel, KING KHAN, is written by the superb author Harry Connolly (CHILD OF FIRE, GAME OF CAGES, CIRCLE OF ENEMIES – that last is my favorite of his books), and features Professor Khan in 1930’s Hollywood battling hopping demons, the LAPD, magic arrows and the last of a centuries-old clan of Amazon samurai women. It’s a blast.
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LIANA C “HUMAN ARTIS
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ONYERS: T REDEFINED” BY CH A RLE DEM OS PHOTOG R A PHS BY WA LTER W LO DA RCZ Y K
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n Monday, November 12th at around 8pm, Liana Conyers stepped onto the stage at Judson Church as guest artist for their series of new works entitled “Movement Research.” Embodying the unfaltering stature of a supernatural Amazon, she instantly commanded the attention of the audience, filling the space with an Olympian energy that well exceeded her 5’7” height and compact body frame. With strikingly nimble athleticism, her vocabulary of movement was unpredictable and nuanced; executed with precision, grace, and conviction. “Body Politics: This is My Body,” is a six-minute adventure ride into one woman’s fascinatingly complex world of movement. A graduate of Bennington College, class of 2003, and a recent graduate of the University of Oregon at Eugene’s master degree program, Liana Conyers continues to challenge and redefine not the only the African-American woman’s mission in the arts but, most importantly, the role of human being as artist. Refusing to pigeon hole herself as “Afro-centric” or “African dancer,” she considers herself a documentarian, creating work that reflects her own struggles with body image and sexual identity with unabashed candor. Engaging in movement forms as a “participant/observer,” she uses movement as compass, probe, weapon, and catharsis. In “Body Politics: This is My Body,” every movement is a multi-faceted
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metaphor. The most striking motif is the action of hunched shoulders as allegory for fear of self-acceptance. This movement rippled throughout the piece, regardless of how flamboyant or commanding the dance became; a poignant reminder that reverberations of fear and self-doubt, no matter how subtle, exist within even the bravest of souls. Other striking examples of how this piece bedazzles audience members were the integration of stereotypically categorized “Urban African-American” dance styles. Make no mistake; Ms. Conyers’ renunciation of a one-dimensional definition of self is a conscious choice. She is well versed in the African dance traditions as well as hip-hop, bounce, and Afro-Caribbe-
an movement. What is most exciting about her subversive delivery of these movements is the effortless precision; the quick, sharp execution as to say “I can do like this too, however, I am not this.” Gems of subtle profundity such as these are a testament to Ms. Conyers’ serious pursuit of self-understanding and desire for autonomy, rejecting the stereotypes of how an “AfricanAmerican dancer” should move, create, and exist in the world. In a perpetual state of fluid undulation, her process of creation is equally indefinable. Sometimes texts precedes dance, other times an emotion, idea, or experience will physicalize itself in bits and pieces or as one giant wave, inviting her to dive in head first! In regards to her
process, Ms. Conyers remarks “My creative commitment has been, and continues to be, to design pieces that investigate the human experience by sourcing autobiography and cultural auto-biographies through a multimedia approach”. She has come up against much scrutiny from the African-American dance community for not “continuing in the traditions of African dance” or “not a having a traditionally acceptable body aesthetic” for certain companies. When seemingly inclusive Afro-centric dance companies passiveaggressively strive for a myopic, antiquated archetype, they proactively work against progression, further confining the AfricanAmerican person as artist. However, when trailblazing visionaries such as Liana Conyers further expand what an African-American person can experience and showcase within her own creative space, tradition is not only continued, it is added upon. Having set out to further explore improvisation for her master’s studies in Eugene, Oregon, Ms. Conyers struggled on a daily basis with racism and prejudice, being the only African-American in her degree program. Having dubbed her fellow classmates “The Rainbow Tribe”, she fought to chop away antiquated thinking and ignorance while exploring the movement motifs that sprung forth from the battle. The hardships endured within these three years cultivated one of her strongest super-powers as an artist; the ability to seamlessly transfer choreography onto a myriad of different body types and people, a rare talent that further reinforces the universal humanity of her work. Ms. Conyers remarked upon this learning experience with equal parts humor and frustration, mentioning that it forced her to explore the deeper layers of AfricanAmerican identity and the parallels all humans share when struggling to understand our identities and weave our individual point of view into the collective consciousness. In her own words, “By collaborating with artists from various backgrounds, we are able to explore the emotional components of interpersonal relationships and bring them to life on stage.” This is another prime example of Ms. Conyers’ ability to alchemize negativity into powerful, evocative, earth-shaking performance pieces such as “Body Politics: This is My Body”. Epitomizing Shakespeare’s quote, “To thine own self be true,” she walks this earth fully connected to spirit and heart, pioneering forward with passion, grace, strength, and sensuality. Creating work that is profound, electrifying, and transcendental, Liana Conyers will show you the way. To view “Body Politics: This is My Body” and a selection of other works from Ms. Conyers, please visit www.youtube.com/licodancetheatre www.licodancetheatre.com ISSUE FOUR
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ARLES DOWD THE DARK SID E BY VA NI LL A CHI LD
Step into the darker side of fantasy art. Charles Dowd, creator of the Lilith Dark adventure series, delves into the surreal with his illustrations and stories. In creating the characters of Lilith Dark, Charles Dowd has filled the gap for powerful girl mentors in the comic world. Filled with adventure, emotion, feeling, and true artistic talent, Charles’ work is truly art.
It's quite obvious that you love what you do! At what age did you know that drawing was a passion of yours and something you wanted to pursue professionally? Considering the “starving artist” stigma, was your family very supportive of your decision? I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. I always really liked it and it was the one thing I was ever good at. I guess I kind of always just thought that I would be an artist when I grew up, but I didn't put much effort into it and ended up working in a warehouse. I was lazy in school and had a real chip on my shoulder. I never thought I'd actually have to work for anything and was completely unprepared for the real world. I grew up poor, so college wasn't an option. I had to find a job. I was angry and life felt hopeless. I stopped making art altogether and just sulked. I ended up having an accident at work where I broke my back. I was out of work for 4 years. I had a lot of time to think about what I really wanted to do and I finally got serious about pursuing art. As lazy as I was before the accident, I'm the total opposite now. I'm a work horse. I'm drawing, designing, painting, writing and creating everyday. I just can't stop. One of the reasons I think I put art off for so long after school was because I was pretty much told growing up that there was no way to make a living drawing pictures. I think that really affected me, and I pretty much gave up right after high school. Honestly, if I didn't have that accident, I probably wouldn't be doing this today. I think I work so hard at it as a way to show people that I can do this for a living. I have to. I don't know how to do anything else. For some people artistic ability comes naturally, for others it requires some training. Have you had any professional training or attended art school, or are you a completely self taught natural? I was always pretty good, but I did eventually go back to school for some formal training and fine tuning. One thing I liked about school was that I had time to work on getting better. I look at some of my work before going back and I cringe. It was shit. Truly! I thought I was great, but looking at it today I realize I was a hack. I'm a lot more humble these days. I feel like I appreciate things more now than I did when I was younger. I guess it comes with being a late bloomer. Your work focuses on the darker, surreal side of fantasy art. What artists inspire you most and how much of an influence do they have on your own art? I always really liked the Renaissance artists, especially Michelangelo, and Caravaggio. I don't care if it’s trite to like those guys. They were geniuses. Michelangelo’s work was so over the top dramatic, and filled with such bombast, I can hardly turn away sometimes. Take a look at the Sistine Chapel and tell me that's not the world's first graphic novel, I dare you! It's awesome, and it's just an illustrated story. It's amazing. Caravaggio was similar in tone and feel, but his work was darker — literally and figuratively. His use of black was incredible. I love that those guys focused so much on death, and Hell, and really psycho bible stories . . . beheadings, demons, those guys did it all. I was always drawn to artists who could draw feelings and emotions. Once I discovered comics, I was drawn to guys like Sam Kieth, and Mark Texiera. Sam's stuff was ISSUE FOUR
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Michelangeloâ€™s work was so over the top dramatic, and filled with such bombast, I can hardly turn away sometimes. Take a look at the Sistine Chapel and tell me that's not the world's first graphic novel, I dare you. It's awesome, and it's just an illustrated story.
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always just so surreal and artistic, which you don't see a lot of in mainstream comics. Tex's work was always so gritty and masculine. Everything he's ever drawn has that John Wayne swagger that guys like Bisley and even Frazetta made popular. I'm really drawn towards the whole low-brow movement too. I've always just appreciated crazy stuff. I was never one for flowers or cottages. Couple that with the fact that in the 80's when I grew up, it was commonplace to run horror all weekend long right in the middle of the day on your local UHF station, and you get a mental mish-mosh of fine art and Leatherface influenced work. Your online comic, Lilith Dark, was inspired by a lack of 'girl friendly' comics that your children could relate to. How did your children respond to Lilith? Yeah, I took my daughter to our local comic shop when she was seven, and for the first time I really took notice that there was nothing for her at all. I was pretty disappointed. It was all overtly-sexualized women and mature content. I never really noticed it before. I mean, I always understood that I didn't know a lot of females that liked comics, but for the first time I finally saw why. It's funny how kids can make you see what's really happening. So yeah, “Lilith Dark” is sort of a feminist response to the comics world. The only girl- targeted book in the shop that day was Strawberry Shortcake, which is just more pink crap. I wanted “Lilith” to be the Anti-Shortcake. She's like a little Buffy, kicking monsters' asses and being awesome. “Lilith” is also a reaction to a real lack of kids' material. I mean, there's Spongebob and Adventure Time, which are both great, but that's pretty much it. Both of the main characters, Lilith and Dewey, are based on my kids. They love it. My daughter thinks it's cool, but she has said it's a little scary, but that's fine because it's supposed to be. Like I said, this isn't Strawberry Shortcake. My son likes it too, and he doesn't like anything because he's an angsty teen. Is Lilith Dark someone we can expect to continue to grow as your children grow or will she remain 8-ish for the duration of her run as a comic as so many main stream comic characters do? What do you hope to accomplish with Lilith? I don't know. I kind of like the idea of watching Lilith grow up, sort of the way Harry Potter grew over the course of the series. I have ideas that are a little darker that I'd like to explore as the series progresses, but I also want to keep the book age appropriate for kids. That's sort of the point of the series. I have no plans to make an R-rated version of the series. Even if there's a darker story arc or two down the road, it will still be in the PG realm, but more of a 1980's PG, like Gremlins or Ghostbusters. ISSUE FOUR
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“Don’t be a diva, because no one wants to work with a diva. And for the love of science, wear a nice shirt to your interview. Get over that romanticized art school fantasy. No one will hire you if you don’t take a shower, turkey.” The main goal is really to show that you can make cool comics starring girls, that boys will also want to read, because the stories don't suck. You are very well tapped into digital media. How much has the digital age changed your work habits? Has it made your job easier/ more enjoyable and do you ever miss doing things the 'old fashioned' way? Let's put it this way, before the internet really took off, I had no career. Social media made me what I am today, which isn't much, but it's a hell of a lot better than before. Before all of this, I was just another guy sending out blind portfolios. Now you can make your own path. I post my work, and people see it, before social media, no one saw it. It's a whole new ball game. Art directors and editors aren't the gate keepers anymore. I'm making my own way, on my own terms. It's a great time to be an artist, but it's a lot of work. With social media, you have to be able to talk to people. You can't just have one way conversations, you have to be human. You also have to have a thick skin, because there's no shielding yourself from what people really think. If they don't like you, they have no problem letting you know. For a lot of people that's a hard pill to swallow, but that's the environment we're in these days. The rewards are great for those that can deal with it. You’ve exhibited Lilith Dark at Comic-Con in Baltimore and Annapolis. How important are conventions like these to artists like yourself? What’s it like to share a venue with the likes of Stan Lee? Well, I actually like to think of it as Stan Lee sharing the venue with me! Either way, it's pretty cool. As far as importance, as much as social media has helped me get my work and name out there, doing conventions is taking that interaction to the next level. I love meeting people at the shows and making new friends and fans. It's a great feeling when someone comes up to you and likes your work. I'm starting to find that a lot of people come back and remember me from before, so yeah, I'm getting my work out there and building an audience. I also love it when someone I know online takes the time to come by in person. It's great to put a face to the name. Sometimes you get to have that really special moment, too, like this past October at the Annapolis Comic-Con in Maryland, where I got to meet a little girl who fell in love with my comic “Lilith Dark,” and came to show in full Lilith Dark cosplay! I was blown away. I mean, that's an experience that she will always remember. My work is forever a part of her childhood memories. That's heavy. That sort of thing really makes it all worth it. Your custom avatars are amazing. Is there a certain method or process you use to create them or is it more of a personal thing based on the client’s wants and needs? I started doing the avatar portraits as a way to sort of get warmed up, and they just kind of spun off into their own thing. I really just wanted to find a way to connect with people on another level, so I started making these little portraits of random people online and posting them. People loved it. I threw in a celebrity here and there just to mix it up a bit, and one day Wil Wheaton shared one that I made of him, and once that happened the whole thing just exploded. The process is really nothing more than me looking at a photo and
drawing it. Nothing to it. I think people just really connect with it because it's so personal. I mean it's one thing to post fan art of Spiderman, but making personal portraits for people takes it to a whole other level. It's intimate. I also read that you work up to 18 hours a day creating your amazing artwork. That must be exhausting! Is it very profitable for you and when do you find time to sleep? I had my lazy phase and it got me nowhere. I do spend a lot of time behind the drawing table, but I have a lot of time to make up for. I don't know any lazy successful people, so I guess I'm sort of just following in their footsteps. I just feel like I want to create, and I want to share my art and stories, and the only way to do that is to get up and make it happen. I do find time to hang out with the family, and I do take a week or two off to decompress every once in a while, but it does take a lot of time and sacrifice to make it. If there's an easier way, please let me know. Otherwise, I'll just keep up the pace for as long as I can. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? How much artistic inspiration do you draw from every day, non-work activities? Spare time? Did somebody leave some of that lying around? But seriously, I like to observe. I watch the kids, and watch the way they interact with each other. They inspire me. I study people. I watch them walking around, I listen to them when they talk to each other. I know that probably sounds creepy, but as an artist and writer I use all of that as inspiration. I also like to learn. Because of my schedule I don't really have time to play video games or watch too much TV, but I do try to take in a few documentaries when I can. I like to watch Science channel in bed. Some of the topics discussed like the creation of the universe, and where we as a species came from are fascinating to me. It helps me come up with new ways of thinking about how I approach my projects, and life in general. What can we look forward to and expect from you in the future? Any major projects you are working on? I thought last year that I'd finish up a couple issues of “Lilith Dark” and then move on to some more traditional illustration work, but I've since discovered that I'm a storyteller. Even in my stand alone illustration work, there's always a narrative. I'm now in love with the idea of working on “Lilith” long term. I have so many ideas for the characters, and the feedback I've gotten from readers is so heartfelt and positive, that I'd be a fool to end it. People respond to this story more than anything else I've ever done, so I'll be happily working on the book for the foreseeable future. Beyond that, I have some new characters that I've been living with, that will soon make an appearance. I'm approaching the new series completely differently than “Lilith.” With “Lilith” I'm really just going with the flow and seeing what comes next. I'm really only working with a loose set of plot points, and kind of filling in the blanks as I go along. With this new project, I'm really taking my time to write it out in the more traditional sense. I want to try to do it this way just to see if I can. Maybe I'll fail, but working in my comfort zone has never gotten me anywhere. Lastly, what advice would you give to up and coming illustrators? Realize that even if you're the most talented kid on your block, there are a million other people out there who are not only more talented than you, they're also more hungry than you. If you want to succeed, be prepared to work. Draw every day, seriously. Learn to recognize your mistakes, and fix them. Don't lose it when someone tells you they don't like your work. Don't be a diva, because no one wants to work with a diva. And for the love of science, wear a nice shirt to your interview. Get over that romanticized art school fantasy. No one will hire you if you don't take a shower, turkey.
BY FRANK COTOLO
As my years number in the high two digits, my mind often wanders back to my most robust times of art, literature and hearty artery-clogging breakfasts. Those were the days of the Dada movement, when my friends were exclusively brilliant, outwardly nihilistic and never afraid to wear silly hats.
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y name will hardly appear on any list of these groundbreaking artists but make no mistake about this: I influenced every one of them in profound as well as meaningless ways. For instance, I insisted Louis Aragon join the Dada movement, which he did upon my urging. But later I slapped him silly when he could not realize he was becoming a surrealist. Louis never understood the difference but I promised him if he trusted me I would let him borrow ten of my most colorful vests. Sculptor, painter and poet Hans Arp came to Paris around 1904. I met him at the airport, which in 1904 was never crowded. At that time, Hans was only thinking about adding “sculptor” to his list of artistic endeavors. When he asked me for advice, I asked him a simple question: “Are you good with small, sharp tools?” After that, Hans — who often went by the name “Jean” but was called “Saul the Benchwarmer” by his friends — went to Strasbourg and spent the next four years sculpting a replica of the Kremlin at one-sixth scale. Dadaism had no headquarters because to have such a place would not have been dadalike. However, Paris was the home for many of the dadaists and where many who wished to be associated with the movement often came for inspiration. Still, Johannes Baader had become known as the “dada prophet” by making Berlin a home for dadaists. When Hugo Ball caught wind of this he founded the Zurich dada movement, causing great friction between himself and Baader. A feud ensued. Ball challenged Baader to a duel using hatpins, to take place on the Rue Borda. The stakes were high. Not only would the winner be able to claim that his city was not the headquarters of dada but if Ball won, Baader would have to give one of the “a” letters in his name to Hugo, who would then become Baall, and if Baader won, he would become Baaader, winning the only “a” in Ball's name, making Ball become Bll [sic]. But neither man showed up for the duel because a dada duel would not be dada and both of them knew it. That incident made Andre Breton became more interested in psychiatry and when I introduced him to Jacques Vache, a legendary predecessor of dadaism, Andre insisted he was suffering from as number of phobias, including an intense fear of over-ordering at a cafe. Fortunate for us all, Tristan Tzara had been rooming with me and pronouncing the “T” in his name. Andre psychoanalyzed Tristan one morning at our room and convinced the Romanian-born poet that such behavior was due to the fact that he wanted to sleep with his mother. Forever grateful and convinced he was healed, Tristan wrote five books of poetry in a week without using a verb. Andre and I became such close friends for a while that we decided to share our girlfriends, pets and wardrobes. Also, I taught him how to ride a bicycle and juggle torches. The summer that Hugo Ball and Johannes Baader visited Paris, the four of us created the world’s first and only dada string quartet, using violins played with hand saws. We played live one afternoon in the Champs Elysees Plaza. It was a short concert. Paul Eluard and Phillipe Soupalt were study-
ing to be dentists before I talked them into becoming artists and joining the dada movement. Paul was hesitant at first, making a strong point concerning the disparity in the two professions’ incomes. But Phillipe talked him into discontinuing a career in teeth care solely by pointing out that being an artist called for fewer excavations into other peoples’ mouths. So Eluard and Soupalt joined the movement using me as a reference. As for Marcel Duchamp, I discovered him near his birthplace in Blainville, near Rouen, in France, while I was crossbow hunting in the area one April. I had known his brother, Raymond, from the painters’ circle known as the “Golden Section,” which included La Fresnaye, Leger, Metzinger, Picabia and Foo Foo Parsons and his Dancing Brushes. Though I could not paint a stroke worth a franc, Raymond insisted I join the circle because it needed help mixing the colors. That's where I met Marcel, who took a shine to me after I told him a hilarious joke about a donkey and three concert pianists. From that day on, Marcel would laugh every time he saw me and say, “Tell everyone the one about the donkey and three concert pianists.” It is true that Lautreamont, Rimbaud and Apollinaire influenced all of my dada friends. However, I can say without boast that it was I who kept the famous dadaists working and believing in nothing in order to persist the movement’s coveted anti-goals. It was not, after all, easy to spend most waking hours mocking institutions and revolting against the modern, common values of culture. I had all to do to keep them from painting straight landscapes and writing realistic prose, no less remind them of their deep devotion to meaninglessness. In 1922 Max Ernst took a flat near the plaza but he was forced to give it back. Around then he had already been collaborating with Arp and Breton but neither of them were aware of it. Ernst was present at the great dada meeting in Tyrol, around 1923. I was there, of course, but, to my chagrin, no one offered me a beverage. That meeting set the standards for the dada movement to have no standards. There were fifty different manifestoes proposed by the Parisian Dadaists and frequent fist fights between the Berlin and Zurich dadaists. The roster was full, featuring all the aforementioned dada players, including two acrobats mistaking the meeting for a traveling circus and I. This would be the first and last meeting of all the characters involved in the dada movement. Though there were hundreds of publications, paintings, collages, sculptures and events with the dada badge over the next decade, everyone moved on to other feats of futility and art. At least each and every one I mentioned, who are the ones I recall now as the years steal my ability to write longhand, said goodbye to me before they left Paris. As I remember so warmly, however, it was Andre Breton who left the most endearing impression upon me when he left. He handed me a parakeet, pinched my eyelid and said, in perfect English, “There will be many other nights like this and I'll be standing here with someone new. There may be other songs to sing, another fall, another spring, but there will never be another you.” Around 1942, Breton sold the words of that goodbye to lyricist Mack Gordon.
BY SEREN A BUTLER ISSUE FOUR
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t’s about time there was a voice that could drive us back to the emotions that were evoked by the likes of Mary J Blige and Aaliyah. The time is now for Londoner Kelly Erez to make her move on the mu-
sic world. After a successful debut EP release entitled This Is Me in November, she released her debut full length album Come to Me which has already become a bit of a cult favorite on the world wide web, grabbing the attention of BBC Radio 1xtra, and coming up with amazing reviews wherever you turn. Those across the pond may find it hard to get tickets to see her as she’s already selling out venues! So ladies and gents; keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle, the ride that Kelly Erez is taking the world on has just begun and who knows where the ride of 2013 will take her?
When listening to your album, there’s a Mary J. Blige-like soul to it that so many of today’s R&B/Soul artists are lacking. What was the main inspiration for your sound when heading into the studio to record Come to Me? That’s a nice compliment! I’m inspired by soulful R&B that I grew up with, mostly in the 90’s. Brian McKnight, Mariah Carey, Boyz ll Men, Mary J Blige, and Maxwell are just a few. My sister Natalie was my first musical inspiration and taught me to write songs. She used to call me into her room when she was writing and ask me to sing harmonies so she could work out what to record. We both wanted to create music that we liked to listen to. This isn’t your first time in the recording studio. After a successful Pledge Music campaign where artists are able to donate proceeds to a given charity, you chose the National Autistic Society. What does it mean to you as an artist to become involved in charitable efforts of any kind? I feel we all have a collective responsibility as human beings to support others in need. Those in the public eye have the advantage of being more influential because they can reach more people. I can only hope that I can help others to support too. The National Autistic Society is close to my heart because my younger sister, Daniella, has (among a few other disabilities, bless her!) Autism and I think the work they do is great! We’ve heard many times before that you should never work with your family. For you, that’s not the case. Word on the street is that you write and produce most of your music with your sister, Natalie. How would you say working with your sister differs from working with other writers/producers? Be honest! Have there been any sibling meltdowns or scuffles in the studio while recording Come to Me? Hmm!! Well, at the beginning, it was very ‘trial and error’ in the way we worked. For example, I make all sorts of loud noises when warming up, which can be very annoying to a big sister! So I’d stand out in the garden while Natalie set ups, annoying the neighbors instead. There were intense moments, especially as we are both perfectionists and aren’t afraid to shout out our thoughts in a very direct manner. Ultimately after adjusting, we found it was the best collaboration we’ve ever had. We connect in a way without even needing words to communicate sometimes. I start singing and Natalie plays beautifully, just the way I imagined the music to be. We bonded whilst producing this album and learned a lot about each other. So many emotions and topics were covered during the project. I think we know each other inside out now!
Throughout the pre-release of your album, you’ve released several behindthe-song videos for your fans to understand the stories and subject behind the song. What was your reasoning in doing this? Is there a behind-the-song production story that has some humor behind it that you can let us in on? I wanted to connect with my listeners and let them know what I’ve been up to on this record. I often receive messages asking for behind the scenes material so I thought ‘let’s go for it.’ We had a lot of fun shooting the clip for “Xtra,” a song about not wanting to compromise my image and be overexposed just to fit in with the industry. For the title track single, you’ve released a video based in the area of central London. Can you tell us how the concept of the video came about? How was your experience during the shoot? Is there anything you’ve learned from this video you’ll apply to your other shoots in the future? I started collecting images and screenshots of other videos and concepts I liked and shared them with my team and video director, Ben Galster. It was a great experience. I learned to bring drinks with straws in to keep makeup in check!
Being that you’ve sold out venues for your shows, you may have the desire to top yourself. What do you feel will be the next evolution in performances since the release of your full-length album? Can we anticipate a full-length tour? I would love to do a full-length tour and will announce any plans on all my sites. Join my mailing list too if you’d like to be the first to hear all about the latest news! At the moment, I’m focusing on radio and press interviews and having great fun. I am planning on releasing a new remix single in the New Year with a different sound too. You’re the first artist we’ve interviewed with her own iPhone app. Can you tell us a little bit about how the idea of your app came about? Do you happen to have the app on your phone? It was my manager’s idea. He actually created it and I love it! There are links to my sites, photos, and blogs. The best part about it is that it sends out automatic updates when I’ve uploaded something on my
Facebook page, for example. And it works The music industry has undoubtedly on Android too! Yes, I admit I have it on two changed. The internet has caused people phones! to expect to have music for free and in some ways there’s more competition to be In prior interviews you’ve stated that heard because it’s easier for people to put your songwriting is based on personal their own music out via social media sites. experience or is a diary of sorts. Why re- I mention in this blog that people do still veal your personal experiences in song? buy music. They just buy it differently. It’s How is this a cathartic process for you? more about buying experiences and packIs there any subject you won’t touch in ages and that means the artist needs to be creative, inventive, and stay ahead of the a song? to stay in it. Music is the best way for me to release game My was in Marketing and Advermy feelings and many of my songs are, tising, adegree subject because it related as you say, diary entries with melodies. It closely enough toI chose music, wide enough most definitely is a cathartic process for me. to cover anything people but buy. I think it’s It’s a chance to process the changes and really important for artists and their teams emotions that I go through in life that are to understand that music is a business. No evidently shared by other women and some matter how much we dislike how it’s changmen too. My aspiration has always been ing, we need to adapt and plough through! to inspire listeners with my lyrics. That’s the best feedback I receive. For example, “Letters,” the opening song on my album, Many artists are offering free EPs to describes the process of needing to let go of get their name out into the public. Do the physical things connected to a physical you feel that free music distribution has relationship because it’s my belief that ev- helped the independent music comerything has energy and it’s good to make munity? Why did you decide to release a clean break where needed. I guess there your music for free for a short period? are always elements of a story that I would What are your thoughts on indie musichoose to leave out. cians releasing their music on listening networks such as Spotify? Back in February 2011, you were featured Artists have to fight harder than ever to as the BBC Radio 1Xtra Unsigned Track get their music heard, especially when they of the Week (homegrown download), are independent. I come from an angle of which is quite a big deal. Once you got wanting people to hear my music and yet the word that you were being featured, also wanting to be able to make a living what emotions were going through your from it so it’s important to try and find the head? What was it like hearing your song right balance to be able to make that happen. I’m a fan of Spotify. They have also on such a globally renowned station? I was ecstatic! It felt so good. My dream been incredibly supportive of my music. I and everything I’ve worked for starting to have a premium account myself and love happen. The BBC network has been so the instant access to new music it gives. supportive of my music. I am really ap- However, nothing beats that feeling of preciative and excited. I just did a number physically holding an album in my hands: of interviews and sessions for the BBC up unwrapping the plastic, opening the sleeve, and down the country, most recently at BBC reading the credits. If you agree and like my Cambridge and had a great interview and music, why not get your CD that is available exclusively from my online store www.store. played 3 live songs. kellyerez.com? On your Pledge Music blog, you have an entry entitled “learning to sell or not to Over many years, people have specusell” in which you’ve stated that you’ve lated over the location of missing left learned three important things about mak- socks when washing their clothing. Do ing music independently including know- you think the laundry monsters exist to ing the business, the depth of relation- steal our clothing and bring them to a ships, and that recorded music has little to separate universe? Where do they go? Lol. Well I wasn’t expecting that one! no value nowadays. How do you feel that knowing these facts has benefited your de- It’s so annoying when that happens!!! velopment in the music business? Do you Where do they go? Answers on a postcard feel the advent of the Internet has caused please. the heaviest blow to the music careers of many or is it something else?
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REVOLUTIONARIES BY PAU L A FR A N K
ake four regular college guys, some serious musical hooks, incredibly relatable lyrics, along with a new spin on pop/punk and you’ve got On The Fifty. With the help of Anthony Raneri of Bayside fame, they recorded and released their first EP last September called Fast Hands, Bad Timing. Tim Dolan (lead singer and rhythm guitar), Tom Dambro (lead guitar and backing vocals), Turk Kantar (bass and backing vocals), and Anthony Imperato (drums) have done far more than what most guys their age only dream about. Challenging as it may be to finish college and still make time for music, it only shows how driven these four are and how much heart they have for their music. As I spoke with lead vocalist, Tim Dolan, I was impressed with the humility and thought with which this band approaches what they do while still not taking themselves too seriously. Always ready to learn, work, and strive to be better, On The Fifty stands to be a pop/punk force to be reckoned with. The foundation is in place with their first EP and we can’t wait to see these guys skyrocket as they keep on into the future. Tell me about On the Fifty. How did you guys meet up and become a band? Anthony and I have been friends since about the 2nd grade and he’d been playing drums since around 4th grade. We started playing together as a unit sometime during middle school. I played guitar, he played drums. His cousin was older and played guitar too. He had more experience and we used to jam at parties and family events. We knew Turk too and asked him to play with us. We were in the same class in middle school so I thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll join these guys and try to learn something.” We played for a few years with our friend Dillon. I egged him on to learn to play bass so we could form a real band. We formed a band called “Word” which was our first band in late middle school, early high school days. That went on until about the winter of 2010 when we decided to start taking the band real seriously. That’s where Tom, our lead guitarist got involved and since then we’ve really settled down and tried to write more creative things, more intuitive things, more integral types of parts and things of that nature. So really since the winter of 2010 is when On the Fifty came to be.
we’re just going to really move forward with the band and see how far we can get. It’s difficult to get together every so often to play. I go to school in Scranton and the other guys are all in New York so I make the trips. It’s difficult, but we make it work. How do you balance all of that? It’s definitely difficult, but we make it work. We keep in touch every day and we send each other ideas and pieces of things, whether it is garage band or a sound recorder. We try to progress even though we’re not home together.
What it was like to work with Anthony Raneri from Bayside, who is one of your heroes? It was an awesome experience. He’s a great guy. What happened with that was our manager got in touch with him last summer and he said “Yeah, have them send me some demos.” We sent him some demos and I think he saw something in us that he enjoyed. We’re all busy but we were able to schedule some time and make it work last January. We were in the studio 11 days recording with him and it was such a great leaning experience. He’s so down to earth and he You guys are all seniors in college. really influenced us. It was a really comforting, That’s kind of an odd decision as many educational experience for all of us. bands want to focus entirely on the music. What prompted you guys to all stay What was the biggest thing you learned in school and finish those degrees? from him and the experience of doing Well, since we really started with this your first EP? group 2 years ago, we were already halfway I think just that the music business takes thru. We sat down and talked as a band as a lot of work. Even though it was only11 to whether we should keep on going or if days, we learned so much. The demos school was more important. Obviously our changed so much from the time of writing parents would back college over a band so them. We got Anthony’s input and the engiwe decided to just settle down for the next neer’s input and all these new lyrics. It was bit and finish school and then after school
such a cool experience to see how the studio feels like work and to understand what goes where. From our demos, our lyrics certainly improved. Tom and I write the lyrics. Anthony gave us a few ideas, but we’re the main lyricists and that was one of the main things for me personally was how the lyrics changed from the demos onto the actual EP. How did you guys land on your sound? Was it something you were all already into or did you develop it together? One of the things we always talked about when we recorded the EP is how different all the songs are from each other. We have some fast upbeat ones, some really slow dramatic ones like “D’s Song.” It was really cool to see how we could work all these different types of songs into on EP, to see how different we could get. They’re all still pop punk type of songs but I think they all take on a certain vibe and personality by themselves. We’re really proud of how we were able to formulate that. If you had to describe your sound in a few words or a short sentence, what would you say? I guess I’d say we’re a pop punk band with a little bit more of a vibe towards our lyrics and the music aspect. A lot of bands use 3 chords and lyrics like “I love my girlfriend or my girlfriend broke my heart,” but we really try to bear down and write about personal things in our lives and things going on around us; subjects like how it’s tough to try to get together as a band. I’m 150 miles away from the other guys. We just try to write about really personal things in our lives and what’s going on in them and I think that’s what kind of separates us from other bands. So what’s been the strangest thing that’s happened to you as a band? We just went to LA and our drummer lost his ID so that was pretty fun trying to get into bars and back on the plane with him. I guess that’s one of the last things that happened to us. His brother had to fax out his passport to him and stuff. It was a pretty funny situation. Your video for “The Future” is hilarious. What gave you the idea for the video and be honest…were those situations based on real life experiences or where you kind of poking fun at growing up? The concept was our guitar player, Tom’s idea. We had never really shot a video before so the week before we were like, “What are we gonna do for this? What goes into it and what are the ideas that people come up with?” Tom is an avid Seinfeld fan so he came up with a video about nothing. I guess what he does in his personal time is he likes to jerk off in his room. I can’t speak for the other guys, but I guess that’s what
they enjoy doing. As for my part, I just really enjoy eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’ll probably make one after this interview. I guess the video is fairly accurate to our actual lives. It was definitely a lot of fun to make. Our friend, Keith Megna, was the director and we just filmed our last one with him too. Who came up with the search terms for the wanking part? That was our friend Jim. He does a lot of our PR stuff and he was shooting pictures and stuff on the 2 days we filmed. We needed input. I think he came up with enema grannies. We had Siamese squirters but that didn’t make the cut. Petty interesting ideas they came up with. What roles do each of you bring to the band? Turk is really the organizer. He settles down, answers all the mails, and gets everyone in touch with what’s going on. That’s really his bread and butter. Tom is really big on all the media aspects on the band. As far as musically, Tom and I write most of the music, usually in my basement. We sit down together with 2 acoustic guitars and just jam out ideas and pick each other’s brains. We write the majority of the lyrics, send them over to Turk, come up with a practice and if we have new ideas we share them around for 3 or 4 hours. Our stage is actually in Anthony’s basement so it’s pretty convenient that he’s so close. So when he’s around and available to play, we usually just try to jam out ideas and try to make the best material we can.
Who would make the best girl? That would be a toss-up between me and Tom. Senior year of high school we actually dressed as women for a party. He dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and I think I was an enchantress. I think he looked a little better though. You were just in LA to shoot a new video. Can you tell us about it or is it top secret? I can spew some secrets. We flew into LA and played the Viper Room first on a Friday night which was an incredible experience. I don’t think I’ve ever played a venue that sounded better than that. Saturday and Sunday we spent like 12-13 hour days shooting the new video. We went to various parts of Los Angeles; to the industrial parts of downtown LA, into the hills overlooking the pacific. We did a few scenes right on the coast with Anthony. We set up his drums over the sunset so it will have a certainly romantic vibe to it I think. We’re looking forward to the editing and seeing the first bits of it. Our buddy, Keith, is so cool about it. He comes up with great ideas right on the spot. It’s for the song “Even If It Kills,” the first track on our EP. Who are your favorite bands at the moment? Actually, this band we’re really into is right from where I go to school. They’re a band called Title Fight. They just released their second LP so the whole trip to LA we were talking about it and dissecting every song. That’s one of the bands we all really enjoy collectively. As far as me, I’m really into this guy called Evan Weiss who does the band “Into It Over It.” It’s one guy but he uses
that stage name. The last few years I’ve really been into this band called “Balance and Composure.” They’re from Doylestown, PA which is right outside of Philly. That’s just a few bands I’ve been into. Going the other way, who makes you want to stab a pencil in your ears? There’s this funny rap stuff going on that’s really funny to listen to. It’s kind of refreshing sometimes to listen to stuff that makes you go “What the hell am I listening to?” If you could trade places with anyone in the band for a day, who would it be and why? I’d say probably Tom because he has an iPhone and I don’t. I’m still living in 2009 with my Verizon Envy2. As long as it works, right? I can get in touch with the 7 people I talk to in my life. Plus, he’s a pretty good skateboarder too. I think I gave up those talents in the 8th grade when I realized I wasn’t any good. You’ve released the new EP and done 2 videos. What’s next for On the Fifty? We’re going to get right back into demoing some new songs. We have about 3-4 songs we’re about halfway done with. Then we want to get back into the studio and lay down some new songs. There are talks of either dropping a new EP by late next summer if all goes well with recording in January or maybe laying down this new EP and collaborating it with our first to make an LP. We’re on the fence with that, but we’re just looking forward to getting back into the studio and laying down some new songs.
Procrastination Decision Time, I Think BY BEC KIE CA N NO NS I made a decision this week. I ended my involvement with a transgender charity that I’ve worked with since its inception some eight years ago. It took me two years to make it — that is procrastination, and even then it was hard to send that final email. You know you have make the decision, but you just can’t make yourself do it, but you know you have too or you just don’t move on. And we all need to move on, don’t we?
I even get shoes as presents for Christmas. Living the dream?
Priorities I have a really good friend that reminds me that the priority for being on the transgender spectrum is "WORK - FAMILY - TRANNYING." It's one of those reminders that I need from time to time (daily sometimes) as being transgendered makes you one of the most selfish people you can possibly imagine — the drug, the deceit, the deviance. I can think back into the not so distant past when I went on a night out, got wasted, and then just didn't turn up for work the next day. A clear case of TRANNYING - TRANNYING - TRANNYING. Not good. Needless to say, I have learned and I've not done it since and heeded those wise words of my good friend.
Longterm View Once you are released from those confines to do what you like and get it out of your system, you find your balance. Over time those around you also find the balance with you. Time solves everything. The problem with being on the transgender spectrum is that it's longterm. Making a decision about telling people will affect the rest of your life, but also not telling people will affect the rest of your life. Decisions need to be tactical or strategic — ideally they are both. What do I mean by this? Well, tactical decisions have short term benefits (and ones you can build on). The strategic ones are long term. I was discussing retirement with someone the other week and their dilemma. They are an out and about tranny, but they had a problem. Over many years they had the chance to get out because of their flexibility with work travel. They had not told their wife anything. With retirement looming, how would they explain and finance nights out? Unless you build on those decisions to make, and make more from the new knowledge you've acquired, then you can box yourself into an even bigger corner.
Addiction I've never been addicted to anything “normal” like alcohol, cigarettes etc. . . . OK maybe coffee, but being on the transgender spectrum you have this in-built thing you have to do. The more you're denied the ability to do it, the more you have to do it, the more you can't do it. The more miserable you get, the more your relationships are torn apart, the more you can't tell anyone, or do anything about it, the more you inwardly procrastinate. Being on the transgender spectrum you have to make decisions, and they often take years. The pressure not to do the thing you feel you are compelled to do comes from social pressure, but more importantly it comes from families and the relationships you have. Although we're born this way, you actually don't know yourself until you're in your mid/late twenties. By this time most people have gone down another path to family life. Friendships have developed where they think this will not be accepted or tolerated. I've been there — and broadly I've come through it. Even I would say I'm one of the lucky ones, but you make your own luck. You have to take risks. You can't expect to win the lottery until you buy a ticket. I've now got some great friends, I’m in a good relationship and
Return on Investment It is tactical to go out and try something - dipping your toe in the water. Even if you don't tell anyone you're doing it. If you don't like it or want to do it again then fine, you have that knowledge. It's a tactical decision. The strategic one is if you share your transgendered feelings with family and friends. As part of my job I have to create business cases. What is the return on investment? It's quite clinical, but everything has a price and a cost. Morally, emotionally and financially. And then what about the risks? I always find risks really interesting. People always focus on the risk of doing something, missing the bigger risk of doing nothing. Going back to my retiring tranny acquaintance, I'm guessing when they first went out many years ago there was a very likely risk they would at some point retire (but also the risk that they might not have reached that age). Put that against the chance if they had told their partner they might have split-up, but they might have split-up anyway before retirement? Procrastination. Morally, emotionally and financially — they are in shitter now. Make sure you don't end up there too!
66 www.fourculture.com | ISSUE FOUR
red u t a e f r u o d e k We as ers k in h t d n a s n ia artists, music vorite things. r fa about their fou CH A R LES DOW D
1. Music. After the sun goes down and the kids are in bed, I like to put on my headphones and listen to my favorite songs really loud while I work on my art. It helps to get me in the right frame of mind and to forget about whatever BS is going on in the real world. 2. Horror. I grew up in a simpler time, a time where no one really thought it was a bad idea to play slasher horror films right in the middle of the afternoon so kids could watch. It seriously warped me, and I am the better for it. 3. Jim Henson. The amazing things that man did with just felt and his imagination. His film “The Dark Crystal” will always be one of my favorite and most inspirational movies of all time. 4. Sleeping until noon. A rare treat at this point in my life, but I do get to experience this pleasure on the odd weekend. I only wish it were a regular occurrence.
M O NTE PIT TM A N 1. Well, of course I love my family. I have four kids and having them really pushed me to get super serious about doing music with my own project and make a plan for the future. 2. I guess I would have to say I love my computer. Because of modern day technology, I write music this way, I have access to a wealth of information, and I can communicate with my family and friends as well as getting information about my music out to the public. 3. I love my Wine Red Gibson Les Paul Custom. I pretty much “learned to play” on that guitar. Les Paul signed it before he passed away, Steve Vai signed it after I jammed with him at one of his Masterclasses, Jerry Cantrell used it to play a party that helped pave the way to him starting Alice In Chains up again, and I’ve used it on more than one Madonna tour. 4. I love a good jacket and a good pair of shoes (anything from John Varvatos) but it’s hard to pick just one!
NATO BARDEEN OF TH E D ROW NING M EN 1. Playing music with my wife. She has a lovely singing voice and when we're singing in harmony, she makes me sound better. 2. Watching soccer. I can't get enough of it . I don't know what it is but if I have the time, Ill watch it all day — which leads me to my number 3. 3. Playing soccer. Myself and some friends started a pickup match on Saturdays about four years ago. 4. Scrimshaw. The history of this folk art brought me to collecting scrimshaw pieces and eventually I started doing it myself.
STEPH EN B L AC K M OO RE
Since we we talked so much about crime and Los Angeles and ghosts and monsters, let's go with my four L.A. crazy, occult / crime favorites.
Jack Parsons Parsons was one of the guys who founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, invented a whole slew of aerospace technology and got waaay into Aleister Crowley occultism with the requisite drugs and orgies, including a stormy friendship with Captain Scientology himself, L. Ron Hubbard. Aimee Semple McPherson Back in the 20's, McPherson was Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and Oral Roberts all rolled into one, only hotter, smarter, more likable and she built out L.A.'s biggest religious following at the time, The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel with over 3,000,000 followers. Everything went fine until she "dispappeared" in 1926 and was found a month later to have been shacked up with a lover in a Hollywood Hills apartment. Lizard People Under Downtown Los Angeles Back in 1934, a geologist with questionable credentials, G. Warren Shufelt, claimed that a series of tunnels beneath Downtown Los Angles held ancient, buried treasure guarded by a race of Lizard Men and he caught so much attention that he even got a write-up in the L.A. Times. It looks like it's actually an extension of an old story of buried Spanish gold in the area that so far nobody's found. The Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven In 1922 May Otis Blackburn started a cult saying that she had received divine inspiration from the Archangel Gabriel and managed to not only bilk some very high profile oil executives out of a fuckton of cash, but also generated a scandal in which she had convinced some of her followers that she could resurrect their dead 16-yearold daughter by putting her in a shrine consisting of seven dead dogs surrounding her mummified corpse underneath a house in Venice Beach. It didn't work. ISSUE FOUR
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CALLING ALL ARTISTS
G.D. Falksen Sir Paul Youthkills Needle Factory and more . . .