The Wizard of Ozz Rolling Stone
EDITOR AND PUBLISHER Jann Wenner MANAGING EDITOR Jason Woods ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITORS Christian Hoard, Alison Weinflash Senior Writers David Fricke, Andy Greeme, Brian Hiatt, Peter Travers Assistant Editors Hannah Murphy Assistant Editors Rick Carp, Jason Maxey, Phoebe Neidl Aditorial Staff Bestsy Hill Contributing Edtiors Sulema Crace, Belen Edman, Janice Chesley Exie Lance, Duane Rozzell, Luther Flax, Olympia C onvery, Tish Frenette, Aurora Gartner, Monique Scherer, Ardella Linnen Design Director Hyomin Kim Creative Director Jodi Peckman Art Directors Matthe Cooley, Mark Maltais Photo Department Sacha Kecca, Griffin Lotz, Sandford Griffin Senior Writers David Fricke, Andy Greeme, Brian Hiatt, Peter Travers
Index Rock & Roll
17 Songs We L ove: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, ‘Diaspora’
36 King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Expand Their Universe by Murdering Ours
19 Polores O’Riordan, Lead Singe of the Cranerries Dies at 46
44 Peggy Gou “I would like to be the first Korean female DJ that plays in Berghain.”
21 How 15-Year-Old Rapper Smooky MarGielaa Became ASAP Rocky’s New Protégé 25 Are Superorganism The New Gorillaz? 27 London Producer Mura Masa is Taking Underground Dance Music to the Grammy
52 King Krule The Wizard of Ooz 60 Here Is Why Florida Has So Much Trouble Passing Gun Laws
29 At Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago 10th Anniversary Concert, Nostalgia Is Complex 31 Cardi B Doesn’t ‘Even Know How’ to Thank Bruno Mars for Grammys Performance, Offers Him Her Kidney
Entertainment 70 Quentin Tarantino Clarifies Role in Uma Thurman’s ‘Kill Bill’ Car Crash 71 ‘Black Panther’ keeps smashing records, exceeding box-office expectations and making history 72 ‘Incredibles 2’ Trailer: The Supers Are Finally Back
77 Video Games Remain an Easy Out For Politicians, But Change Will Come With Time
Review 79 Letters 81 Playist 83 The Last Word
73 Weinstein Company to Declare Bankruptcy After Sale Collapses 74 See Paul Rudd Blitz Through Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’ on ‘Fallon’ 74 Jimmy Kimmel Makes Mock TV Ad After New Stormy Daniels Revelation 75 Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux on ‘Mute,’ ‘MASH’ Cosplay and Modern Comedy 76 Dr. DisRespect: The Man Behind Twitch’s Most Notorious Champion Opens Up About Family, Fame
Editor’s Letter This issue includes a number of stories that focus, in one way or another, on the question of identity and self-image. How we regard ourselves, how we feel about who we are, is of course not only about our age but about so many factors and facets of our lives. We invited a group of leading female photographers who have contributed to Vogue to take a self-portrait and explain their rationale for how they have chosen to represent themselves (“Now You See Me”, page 112). They span several generations of the magazine, from Tessa Traeger – responsible for some of the most wonderful photography to accompany our food pages in the Seventies – to Coco Capitán, Harley Weir and others shooting for us now. Many of these photographers have spent a great deal of their professional lives working in the fashion arena, constructing images of others and using the clothes as a pivot. The images in this issue required them to place themselves in front of the lens and decide what they wanted to reveal. Jann Wenner
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Songs We Love: Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah, â€˜Diasporaâ€™ On the three albums that compose The Centennial Trilogy, the New Orleans horn player and composer pays tribute to the American jazz tradition by tapping into the legacy of fusion. by Douglas Greenwood Rock and Roll
Depending on the decade, jazz artists who mix advanced improvisation with popular music might be required to engage in some tough lobbying—of audiences, critics, or even fellow players. We are not currently living in one of those eras. Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, and Esperanza Spalding have all built imposing reputations thanks, in part, to their adaptation of pop textures. In this environment, fusion seems not merely legitimate or acceptable, but desirable. It’s a far cry from the early 1990s, when a talented saxophonist like Greg Osby could work with elite hip-hop producers and become the target of too-easy jokes. (Osby’s 3-D Lifestyles is now ripe for reappraisal.) That means the challenge before today’s fusion-oriented artists is not to defend the organizing principle, but rather to distinguish the execution. In 2015, trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah formally debuted his fusion concept of “stretch music,” with an album of the same name. Over the course of three releases this year—Ruler Rebel, Diaspora, and now The Emancipation Procrastination— Adjuah has continued to hone his strategies. Together, Adjuah calls them The Centennial Trilogy, in honor of the 100-year anniversary of the song often considered the first jazz recording. At points throughout Stretch Music, it was possible to pick apart Adjuah’s main ingredients, mid-song: a bit of soul-jazz driving the beat during solos before a rush of hip-hop-influenced percussion delivered a track’s hook. On the best portions of The Centennial Trilogy, the stirring happens more slowly and the flavors blend more fluidly over the course of
the project. Early in Ruler Rebel, we are introduced to “New Orleanian Love Song,” a melancholic, feverish track that presents Adjuah’s arcing trumpet lines over rhythms built up from samplers and African percussion instruments. The tune that follows is called a remix, but it feels like a complete rearrangement: A piano-driven melody is similar to that of the original take, but instead of moving through legato phrases, the line has turned staccato and nervy—the sort of motif you might hear in a track from E-40’s production shop. On “Phases,” blending Sarah Elizabeth Charles’ ethereal vocals with burbling percussion programming yields a ballad influenced by trap music’s sonics. Ruler Rebel’s closing track, “The Reckoning,” draws from the clatter of drum ‘n’ bass and the sustained tones of ambient. With these reference points firmly established, Diaspora has a more relaxed, casual air. Throughout, Adjuah departs from acoustic-jazz practice by freely overdubbing his solos, most noticeably on “Idk.” That choice can help a listener acclimate to Adjuah’s overall environment, rather than living or dying with each improvised riff. After two releases filled with high-concept fusion, some listeners might be hungry for solos that hang around longer and aren’t so beholden to the mood of the production. Adjuah delivers exactly this on The Emancipation Procrastination. It is also here that he more willingly invites associations with past styles. The prominent use of electric guitar suggests a vintage rock-fusion approach, and soulful Fender Rhodes playing by Lawrence Fields often seems like it’s channeling some of Miles Davis’ late-1960s sound. The lengthy closing number, “New Heroes,” features some of the most exciting instrumental interplay of the entire series. Adjuah’s trumpet, Elena Pinderhughes’ flute, and Braxton Cook’s alto saxophone all take turns shining. Adjuah reserves the last solo for himself, letting rip with some of his most ecstatic riffs. Sometimes he growls through his horn. At other points he lets loose with some piercing cries. Eventually, he settles on a final texture, one both burnished and regal. It’s the sound of a player confident not just in his chops, but fully at home in his own compositional world.
Dolores O’Riordan, Lead Singe of the Cranberries Singer of Nineties hits “Linger,” “Dreams” and “Zombie” dies in London as police classify death as “unexplained” by David Brown Rock and Roll
Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of the Irish rock band the Cranberries, died on Monday in London. She was 46.Her death was announced by her publicist, who did not specify the cause. “Irish and international singer Dolores O’Riordan has died suddenly in London today,” Lindsey Holmes, the publicist, said in an emailed statement, adding that Ms. O’Riordan had been in London for a recording session. The statement said that family members are “devastated to hear the breaking news and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.” A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said on Monday that the police were called to a Park Lane hotel in Westminster at about 9:05 a.m., and that Ms. O’Riordan was pronounced dead at the scene. Her death is not being treated as suspicious. Ms. O’Riordan wrote lyrics and often music for the Cranberries’ 1990s hits, including “Linger” (which remained on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for 24 weeks) and “Dreams,” which proclaimed both vulnerability and steadfastness. She was the sole writer of the noisier, angrier “Zombie,” a response to an Irish Republican Army terrorist bombing in 1993. The Cranberries - “Linger” Video by TheCranberriesVEVO In the band, her voice — high and breathy, but far more determined than fragile — rode atop a rich wash of electric guitars. Her unmistakable Irish accent and the Celtic inflections of her melodies gave her singing a plaintive individuality and a flinty core. Missouri Mule January 17, 2018 Dolores formed a soundtrack that reached — and stayed — deep inside, as only very few artists are capable of doing. However brief her life,... Christopher Lupke January 17, 2018. Devastated.Dormouse42 January 17, 2018. Since yesterday I’ve had all the Cranberries I have (pretty much everything) playing on constant repeat shuffle.I am so saddened that she... The Cranberries were formed in 1989 as the Cranberry Saw Us and renamed the Cranberries after Ms. O’Riordan took over as lead singer in 1990. Along with the brothers Noel Hogan on guitar and Mike Hogan on bass, the band includes the drummer Fergal Lawler. The group arrived during the early 1990s ascendance of alternative rock: tuneful, punk-derived, guitar-driven songs that often made their way from college-radio playlists to commercial radio. Four of the Cranberries’ albums reached the Top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart. Credit Andy Earl Female rock singers like Sinead O’Connor and Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays had recently preceded the Cranberries on the pop charts, and the band also drew deeply on the musical example of the Smiths, the 1980s band that propelled warm, rounded guitars and confessional lyrics with post-punk drumming. The Cranberries’ 1993 debut album, “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?,” which included the career-making hits “Linger” and “Dreams,” and the 1994 album “No Need to Argue,” with “Zombie,” were both produced by the Smiths’ producer, Stephen Street.
After “Zombie,” the Cranberries lost much of their pop audience as their late-1990s albums grew harsher and more concerned with sociopolitical messages than with love songs. The Cranberries disbanded in 2003. In 2007 Ms. O’Riordan released her first solo album, “Are You Listening?” In an interview published in The Guardian last year, Ms. O’Riordan described how the band wrote “Linger,” its first song together. “I wrote about being rejected,” she said. “I never imagined that that it would become a big song.” In 1996, Neil Strauss, a pop music critic for The New York Times, described Ms. O’Riordan as a performer who can “sing almost anything and make it seem musical.” Ms. O’Riordan’s death was also announced on the group’s Twitter account, where fans shared messages of mourning and of the impact that the group’s music had on their lives. “She was part of my DNA, the soundtrack to my life,” wrote one, Michael Traboulsi. Ms. O’Riordan was born on Sept. 6, 1971, and grew up in the Ballybricken area of County Limerick, Ireland. In 1994, she married Don Burton, a former tour manager for Duran Duran; the couple divorced in 2014. She is survived by her three children, Taylor, Molly and Dakota, and her mother, Eileen O’Riordan. Six years after the Cranberries’ split, the group reunited and began touring again. But last year, the band canceled dates on its European and North America tours because of Ms. O’Riordan’s ongoing back problems. “There have been some comments suggesting that Dolores could perform if she sat while singing. Unfortunately it is not as simple as that,” a statement on the group’s Facebook page said then. The Cranberries released the acoustic album “Something Else” in 2017 and had plans to perform shows in Europe and North America. But the tours were cut short or canceled because the band said that singing put pressure on the parts of her spine that were giving her so much pain.
How 15-Year-Old Rapper Smooky MarGielaa Became ASAP Rocky’s New Protégé The Bronx teenager discusses his early success and how he ended up rapping all over ASAP Mob’s new mixtape. by Daniel Kreps
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He’s emerged in a cluttered New York rap environment, where artists and collectives from every borough are striving to become the next Bobby Shmurda or Cardi B. His local contemporaries include the artists in Brooklyn’s drill scene, the lo-fi Slums crew that stretches from Crown Heights to the Bronx, Staten Island’s Squidnice, and Queens’ Flee. Amid the competition, Margielaa’s got a rare ability to render emotionally resonant AutoTuned melodies in sharp detail, recalling the late Speaker Knockerz. Margielaa credits his style to the West African music he encountered during his youth. His dad is the famous Malian musician Abdoulaye Diabaté; Margielaa grew up playing the balafon, a West African instrument similar to a xylophone. “When I play the balafon, it has melodies in it,” he explained to Pigeons and Planes. “Sometimes, you can hear that melody in my voice.” This experience lends a depth to his music lacked by many of his peers in the realm of teen-centric internet rap. In 2016 Margielaa caught the eye of A$APRocky, who took him on as a protege. Margielaa’s relentless energy on tracks like “Bahamas,” off the A$AP Mob project Cozy Tapes Vol 2: Too Cozy, have solidified his place as one of the most exciting acts in the nebula of young New York City talent. At the rate he’s moving, he’ll soon be capturing attention far beyond the five boroughs. ALPHONSE PIERRE: You have a fascinating background, your dad was a musician from Mali and you used to tour with him. What can you tell us about that? SMOOKY MARGIELAA: I wasn’t really touring with him, but I was doing a lot of shows with him. My dad was on tour in France and Europe and places like that. I just had a lot of shows with him across the country and all that. I used to have a djembe and this wooden xylophone called a balafon, which I used to play for my dad. I was like 8 years old at that time, so the
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crowd would be happy and it used to make my dad’s performances better, you feel me? You know he got a little kid playing balafon. PIERRE: What other music did your dad expose you to? MARGIELAA: I mean my dad is the one who showed me Michael Jackson. It was a whole story to that too, because in the African tribe I used to dance like Michael Jackson. I used to do his dance moves, moonwalk on the stage, and they used to pay for me it. And then I used to sing, so ever since then I’ve been singing. PIERRE: Do you think you can still feel the West African music you used to play with your dad in your current music? MARGIELAA: Yeah I can definitely hear tunes in it. Some of the keys I can even touch are in it. PIERRE: How do you feel about American artists taking from West African, such as the Afrobeats trend? MARGIELAA: I feel like that’s a smart idea. French Montana did it, and you see where he’s at. PIERRE: Do you still listen to any artists from Mali? MARGIELAA: I used to. My cousin is real popular in Africa — Sidiki Diabaté — he’s real famous in Africa so that’s the only person I really listen to, him and his crew. PIERRE: How did you transition from playing West African music with your dad into rap music? MARGIELAA: I had a lot of friends that wasn’t African. I lived in New York, I lived in the hood where it was gritty. If you see me, you wouldn’t really know me as an African kid that speaks my language. I was just a kid in the hood who was bad, and all that stuff. I didn’t really rap in my language, cause that wasn’t
cool. I would probably have to be in Africa to really do African music, and get the attention that I want to get. PIERRE: When did you start to take rap seriously? MARGIELAA: People just started realizing that I could. I met my tutor, he was a tutor in my school, right. He’s now my manager, and he wanted to put me in the studio because he used to see the songs I would put out on my phone. So then he just said, “I got a studio,” and we went and I recorded two songs and we put it out. One of them got real popular in my school, and I just kept going. I was getting love in my school a lot, and there was a lot of kids in my school. So once they shared it, another person shared it, and it was the popular kids in the school. Once one popular kid shares it then all the popular kids gonna be on that shit. You go viral. PIERRE: Being from the Bronx, do you feel that you have certain expectations that you have to live up to? MARGIELAA: Oh man, I can’t embarrass my peoples. I gotta keep going through everything. PIERRE: When did you first connect with Rocky? MARGIELAA: It was in the Bronx. It was a lot going on that night. We was in front of a club that I was supposed to perform at, you feel me? And all the kids were supposed to leave by 12 cause they were gonna start serving drinks, so at 12 they kicked everybody out. It was just my energy he noticed. I ran up to him like five times. I seen Rocky before everybody else seen him. He came in the big SUV. I was already kicked out the club; I’m outside now and now Rocky is pulling up in the big SUV. He come in the SUV I run up to him like, “Yo, this Smooky Margielaa.” I had some gray Margiela’s on and he was feeling them. He was like “Damn young nigga, you got Margielas on, you swaggy!” I was the only nigga in the Bronx that had Margielas on that night, looking flee’d up. His assistant hit me up two months later, and then Rocky probably another month after that, we spoke face to face. We got cool, you feel me? I didn’t sign until a year later. It was a whole process. I was finding a vibe with him, we was cooling. I met everybody from the A$AP Mob and we did a track. We made a song called “Black Card.” He was like, “Oh shit, this kid right here.” And it got to a point where I started messing with them, getting comfortable, and that was it.
lot of people out here. When I got in there I just started thinking about stuff—“I never been to Bahamas but I sure have been to the projects.” I really have been to the projects and I’ve never been to Bahamas. “I used to catch licks in pajamas”—I used to leave my house in pajama pants, with no money, do something bad, and get it. PIERRE: Are your parents supportive? MARGIELAA: Of course. My parents come to the shows and stuff. PIERRE: “Stay 100” was another song where you really expand your use of flows. Was it just a vibe you caught? MARGIELAA: I do a reference track with no words, where I just mumble, mumble, mumble to see what flows sound good. And then I add words on top of it. PIERRE: One of your recent tracks produced by Murda is called “Not Right (Free Meek Mill).” Is Meek an artist who means a lot to you? MARGIELAA: I just feel like Meek is a real nigga and he got locked up for the dirt bike stuff. And he might’ve had other cases, but they shouldn’t have him locked him up for the dirt bikes, that’s not right. PIERRE: Do you think it’s tough getting respect in rap at your age? MARGIELAA: Nah, I don’t feel like that at all. I feel like it’s even better that you’re 15 years old and actually doing it.
PIERRE: One of your standouts on Cozy Tapes was “Bahamas.” Where did that energy come from? MARGIELAA: You know me, I talk about real stuff. I don’t just do a song and not talk about nothing, like a
Are Superorganism The New Gorillaz? The eight-person collective operates like a DIY version of a big-budget hit factory. by David Blue
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Superorganism, an eight-strong, international, self-proclaimed “DIY pop production house,” have barely been a band for a year yet. Still, they’ve managed to wrap an album, find fans in Frank Ocean and Ezra Koenig (who spun their potpourri electro on their respective Apple Music radio shows), and sell out shows with just four songs to their name. When the group’s first effort, “Something For Your M.I.N.D.” appeared on the internet, it was nothing more than an experiment by a group of music-obsessed internet friends trying their hand at something new. Music blogs and SoundCloud scourers, however, went wild: its fans began to ponder who was behind this scuzzy, lo-fi gem. Some thought it was A.I. behind the vocals, or some esoteric side project of Gorillaz. Then it was swiftly deleted—removed from the internet for appropriating a sample of C’hantal’s “The Realm”—just as the band was gaining significant traction. Who the hell were behind Superorganism? This was all the work of an octet that had barely met each other, with members hailing from just about every continent imaginable. The song they were addicted to was not sung, as some thought, by a computer, but by a 17-year-old Japanese schoolgirl named Orono living in Maine. She wrote and recorded the lyrics in 30 minutes on her Macbook Air while lying in bed. “That felt like a big bang moment for us,” claims Harry, Superorganism’s guitarist, who’s calling from the warehouse in East London the band have converted into a live-in studio, each room acting as a different element in the Superorganism make-up. The hype around that one song led to a deal with Domino Records, at which point they decided it was time they should actually meet in real life. “Our lives are all pretty intertwined at this point, and we’re all best mates,” he says. “The thing that binds us all together is that none of us have super strong geographical roots. We’re all varying shades of misfits.” Most of the band moved from country to country as teenagers, just as their tastes in music were forming, so they “[grew] up with the culture of the internet instead.” The world wide web is pivotal to Superorganism. Without it, the group—who all met on music forums and through mutual friends online—wouldn’t exist in the way they do now. It’s a trait they share with an artist they all galvanize around, the criminally underrated British synth-pop star Charli XCX. Her modern mixtape collections of collab-heavy pop are “weird and have so many phases,” Harry claims. “It deconstructs pop music while keeping the conciseness that makes [the genre so universal].” Even their own sound, an electronica pop collage of off-kilter synths, samples, and angsty lyrics, feels like the product of the social media-savvy Gen Z band. “The world’s too small for me … my face on every screen,” Orono quips semi-sarcastically on the group’s first single of 2018, “Everybody Wants to
Be Famous.” It sounds like it could be made in somebody’s bedroom—and it was: eight of them, if we’re being fastidious. “We wanted create a DIY simulation of what the pop studios were making,” Harry tells me, on the way the band tunnel eight frenetic and colorful ideas into one. “Think about Kanye creating A Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and look at the credits on it. It was a huge pooling of talent that turned into a singular vision. We wanted to do that—just with no budget in a house in East London.” “We have an abstract idea of what a band should be,” Harry adds, listing off each component of the band and their respective title: Harry plays guitar; Tucan writes and produces; Ruby, Orono and B are on the mic; Emily on synths and Seoul is on backing vocals. “While we do have members who are the clear songwriters or image-makers, at the same time it’s all democratic in the way we divide up the labor.” Handed from one person to the next, the conveyor belt creation of pop music these days is the first thing that its naysayers twist to point out its facetiousness in the music realm, but it’s rarely a bad way of doing things. In Superorganism’s case, their in-house production studio with so many members lets them work organically and at lightning speed. Harry claims that after releasing “Something for Your M.I.N.D” “a dam burst.” Eight months later, the band were in a meeting deciding on the final tracklist for their debut album, due out this March. The way things are going, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Superorganism drop a second big body of work by the end of 2018. After all, they’re constantly making music. Would they be open to the idea of welcoming new members to speed things up a little? “I’d never say never,” Harry laughs, “but we’re good for now!”
London Producer Mura Masa is Taking Underground Dance Music to the Grammy From A$AP Rocky and Charli XCX to Christine and the Queens and Damon Albarn, Alex Crossan has shed himself of genre boundaries for his hotly anticipated debut LP. Here, he talks i-D through how each track came to be. by Zsรณfia Paulikovics
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When 21-year-old musician and producer Alex Crossan—better known as Mura Masa—found out he was nominated for two Grammys, he was ambivalent. “The first thing I really thought was, ‘How do I even feel about this?’” he recalled over Skype. “Am I excited, am I not really bothered? Am I upset? Does it put me in a compromising position, because now I’m attending the ceremony, so what does that really say about me?” Young artists today release music on the internet, tailored for niche audiences who know where to seek them out. This means that new talent often flies under the radar of the behemoth Recording Academy. In 2018, are the Grammys still relevant? “It’s definitely not the most important thing for me, but it is a big career moment because people like to talk about that kind of thing,” remarks Crossan. “Even the way you framed the question is interesting, because it’s still the first thing you wanna ask me about.” Born in Guernsey, a small British island off the coast of France, Crossan grew up separated from the London music scene by an ocean. “I was always heavily interested in underground musical movements, the post-dubstep scene; Mount Kimbie were coming out, and bands like that. But I didn’t have any way to physically access it, so I was kind of observing it from afar through my own telescope.” He credits soulful electronic prodigy James Blake for showing him that dance music didn’t have to be cold and emotionless. Following stints in punk and hardcore bands, Crossan segued into electronic production in order to maintain “control over every aspect of the project.” Mura Masa’s self-titled first album does feel like a curated experience, with appearances from French freak-pop sensation Christine and the Queens, Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn and one of London’s brightest young stars, electro-soul singer-songwriter Nao. Despite all the moving parts, it feels like a coherent whole. For several years now, there’s been an increasing trend among emerging artists to think of themselves as “creative directors,” stringing together references and building a multi-platform body of work. It’s a title that Crossan is tentatively embracing. With a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package, he’s the first artist to be nominated for both music and creative direction on the same album. “I designed the front cover, and I was pretty heavily involved with [graphic designer] Matt de Jong along with Yoni Lappin and Salim Adam who took some of the photographs. It’s pretty cool to be recognized in that way because it’s something I’ve always taken a huge involvement in.” Crossan’s sonic and visual output feels like an homage to a young, queer, diverse London that we’d all like to believe is the future. His outlook can feel naive sometimes, but in a good way; his naivety is one that anyone who’s moved to London (or any big city) after years spent wishing they already lived there will recognize. Sensitive to accusations of cultural appro-
priation—especially for creative choices like his steel drum instrumentals or the housing estate setting of his music videos for “Love$ick” and “What if I Go”—Crossan takes care to never fake belonging. He involves vocalists with diverse backgrounds in order to foreground a range of perspective. “[It’s easy] to sleepwalk into that place of just lifting things,” he explains. “I always try to come at it with first being educated about what it is that I’m looking to take from other places, and making sure to do it so that it nods to whatever culture it is in the right way. As an invitation more than taking credit for it in any way.” After emerging as a star on SoundCloud, Mura Masa is now teetering on the edge of global fame. It’s a place he’s still figuring out how to occupy. So far, his approach has been to intentionally “punch a little bit above my weight” when it comes to choosing collaborators, as evidenced by his features from Rocky and Albarn. It’s a testament to his strength as both an artist and a curator that he can make these all-star moments work on his terms. “The way I always describe it,” he says, “is if I’m at a party and Michael Jackson is there, and someone’s like, ‘Why don’t you come and say hey to him?’ My answer is no, I don’t want to just walk up and say hello to Michael Jackson. I want him to want say hello. Otherwise it’s just an empty encounter.”
At Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago 10th Anniversary Concert, Nostalgia Is Complex Justin Vernon’s falsetto-folk infiltrated pop and caught Kanye’s ear but now he’s kicking against the fame game. For his new album, he explains why the last thing he’ll do is a Beyoncé-style Pepsi tour by Evan Rytlewski
Rock and Roll
“Gotta be careful about nostalgia,” Justin Vernon cautioned a few songs into Saturday’s concert commemorating the 10th anniversary of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, muttering more to himself than the audience. And, by and large, he has been. Early on, Vernon recognized the power of his debut album’s creation myth—heartbroken dude retreats to a cabin in Wisconsin, writing and recording songs that channel the loneliness of the trees around him—as well as its potential to overshadow his music. Nearly everything he’s done since has felt at least in part like an attempt to erase, or at least complicate, his image as a sorrowful woodsman. Across the last 10 years, he’s contributed to myriad side projects, including the experimental Volcano Choir and the soft-rocking Gayngs, expanding his repertoire along the way. And then there’s Bon Iver’s latest, 22, A Million, a garbled cryptograph of a record that seems to understand it’s asking more from listeners than most are willing to give (nobody requests 22, A Million songs at a Bon Iver concert—and not just because they can’t pronounce their titles). So if Saturday’s one-off concert at a Milwaukee basketball arena felt a bit out-of-character for Vernon, he sought to make the night something more revealing than a routine “artist plays their most popular album” show. Flanked by past and present members of his band on an oftentimes crowded stage, Vernon used the show as an opportunity to commemorate Bon Iver’s early years. The setlist was modeled closely after their For Emma tours, including a couple covers the band retired long ago: Graham Nash’s “Simple Man,” sung by bandmate Mike Noyce, and North Carolina folk singer Sarah Siskind’s “Lovin’s for Fools,” performed with Siskind herself. Bon Iver at Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Bradley Center during their For Emma, Forever Ago show on Saturday. Photo by Daniel Ojeda/PTG Live Events. The show put Vernon’s perfectionist tendencies on display, with many songs reworked with enveloping, pastoral arrangements in the spirit of Bon Iver’s self-titled second record. Despite the potentially unforgiving acoustics of such a large venue, the sound was pristine. Vernon performed wearing a seriously hefty pair of headphones, signaling a sense of internal concentration. For Emma was always a more ornate, idiosyncratic record than its folky reputation suggested, and Vernon exposed just how much work went into it; it’s ironic how many musicians it takes to make music sound this lonely. Distinctive as his songwriting on For Emma may be, Vernon’s use of digital vocal effects may become his greatest innovation. In the years after For Emma’s release, he was one of the first indie songwriters to fully harness the emotional power of electronic vocals, demonstrating that such manipulation could be artful and expressive—not just a cover-up for a weak voice, but a means to further heighten a great one. It was his inventive embrace of Auto-Tune that
caught the ear of Vernon’s most famous collaborator, Kanye West, and led to the likes of James Blake, Frank Ocean, and Francis and the Lights employing similarly slurry effects. This futuristic side of Vernon was displayed on one of the concert’s few solo showcases, when he performed “Woods,” from 2009’s Blood Bank EP, alone onstage. Sans any instrument other than his layered, heavily processed voice, he looked machinelike in his stillness, as lights strobed across him like jolts of electricity. For all of his subsequent zigs and zags, nothing Vernon has done since For Emma has had quite the same impact. The album stands as one of a handful of independent releases from the last decade or so that resonated significantly beyond indie circles. It not only set off indie rock’s renewed interest in humble strumming, but it helped kindle a more blockbuster folk resurgence, as acts like the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons filtered some of the same ideas through the sensibilities of a Target commercial. For evidence of how far up the record industry Vernon’s music has reached, look no further than Ed Sheeran’s arm, which features tattooed lyrics from For Emma’s closer, “Re: Stacks.” But while many have copped his early style, none have done it with such personal conviction. This was clear during Vernon’s intimate solo performance of “Re: Stacks,” when he seemed to shrink the silenced, darkened arena to a fraction of its size.
Cardi B Doesn’t ‘Even Know How’ to Thank Bruno Mars for Grammys Performance, Offers Him Her Kidney It was written around the same time Justin Vernon was working on For Emma, Forever Ago by Jessica Vacco-Bolanos Rock and Roll
In a year when the nominees were more eclectic and adventurous, the safe bets prevailed at the 60th Grammy Awards. All of the night’s most coveted awards went to Bruno Mars, for his funk-infused 24K Magic, which won Album of the Year, and the songs “24K Magic” and “That’s What I Like,” which won Record and Song of the year, respectively. Mars cleaned up in four other categories as well: Best R&B Performance, Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, making him the year’s most decorated artist. The night started out looking like it could go in a different direction. After new nomination review committees were implemented in June 2017 for the fields of rap, contemporary instrumental and new age to diversify the nominee pool, hip-hop vet Jay Z walked into the Garden with the most nominations of any artist. Although he was awarded the Industry Icon Award before the televised awards, he lost all eight Grammys for which he was nominated. In the hiphop categories, all four of those losses came at the benefit of Kendrick Lamar, who started the evening as the second-most nominated artist. His poetic yet pop-appeasing fourth studio album, DAMN. (which was named NPR Music’s best album of 2017), won five awards but lost two of the night’s three biggest prizes to Mars. “You guys are the reason I’m in the studio pulling my hair out,” Mars said to his competitors in the audience when accepting the award for Album of the Year. That speech capped a night when Mars managed a rare sweep of the major awards, a feat also accomplished last year, when Adele beat Beyoncé — Jay Z’s wife — in each of the major categories. There were numerous nods to the East Coast location of New York City at this year’s ceremony. The 2018 awards marked the first time in 15 years that the Grammys have been held in New York, and there was plenty of star power packed into Madison Square Garden. But while the location may have been touted as historic, there were plenty of missed opportunities to make actual Grammy history. If Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s smash hit “Despacito” had won Song or Record of the year, it would have marked the first time a Spanish-language track won in either category. It lost in every category in which it was nominated. R&B sensation SZA was the most nominated woman of the night but lost all five awards for which she was nominated, including Best New Artist, which was won by Alessia Cara. While the unspoken theme at last year’s Grammys was timidly political, the elephant in the room this year dissolved early in the night into the form of dainty white roses, as many on the Grammys red carpet — Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, Lana Del Rey and more — wore flowers with their Grammy ensembles to show solidarity and compassion for victims of sexual ha-
rassment and the #TimesUp movement. Though the nod to the movement organized by record executives Meg Harkins and Karen Rait was visible during the pre-show, it barely got any acknowledgement during the first half of the telecast. Lady Gaga was the only performer of the night to work the words “Time’s up” into her set. But past the midway point, before announcing a performance by Kesha, Janelle Monae took the moment to wave the flag of sisterhood. “We come in peace, but we means business,” Monae said defiantly. “And to those who would dare try to silence us, we say, ‘Time’s up.’ ... Just as we have the power to shape culture we also have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us.” Then, for her emotional rendition of “Praying,” Kesha was joined on stage by Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Bebe Rexha, Julia Michels, Andra Day and the Resistance Revival Chorus. The moment was genuine, angelic and exultant, blowing away virtually every other performance of the night. But when it came time to actually award Kesha’s efforts, the Grammys did not give her a prize in either Best Pop Solo Performance or Best Pop Vocal Album, the two categories in which she was nominated. In the former category, included on the telecast, her fellow nominees included Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga and Pink — all women who have sung about sexual assault or worked with Dr. Luke, the songwriter and producer accused by Kesha of abuse — as well as Ed Sheeran. The award was won by Sheeran, for his hit “Shape of You.” Alas, dangling the carrot of more courageous Grammy winners above the nose of music fans proved to be yet another party trick.
Rock and Roll
Rock and Roll
It’s not unheard of for a psychedelic band to practice world building exploring consistent themes or imagery in the interest of presenting the album as a whole, self contained exploration but universe building is far less common. Yet Melbourne, Australia, seven piece King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard somehow manage to build universes around each and every release, crafting albums that swirl seemingly disparate influences like free jazz, blues, pop and speedy garage punk into full-length exercises of form and function.
Over just five years, King Gizzard have released nine albums of adjunct, wholly realized visions for adventurous ears. Among them, there’s the Spaghetti Western story unfolding on Eyes Like the Sky, the pummeling garage-psych headfuck of I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, the endless loop connecting the first and final notes of Nonagon Infinity, the AMpop leaning, largely acoustic Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, and this year’s exercise in Eastern microtones, intervals and notes that Western musical notation doesn’t consider called Flying Microtonal Banana. Their community has grown exponentially in a remarkably short time. The band has thrown their own festival, Gizzfest, back in Melbourne for the last two years, giving a prominent stage to fellow Aussies like paisley groovers Orb and the hallucinogenic sisters of Victoria’s Stonefield, both of whom are currently traveling the States with The Gizz on the Flying Microtonal Banana tour. Banana comes to a climax on “Nuclear Fusion,” when frontman Stu Mackenzie sings that the devil’s in the details and his spirit leaves his body to fly through a world of radiation. King Gizzard released the album with the suggestion that they had a total of five releases planned for this year alone, and yesterday, upon announcing their second release of 2017, Murder of the Universe would be released June 23 on ATO, devotees plundered the track list, divided into three chapters, for clues about what their vision of cataclysmic apocalypse sounds like. No longer content with just building their own universes, King Gizzard have prophesied the destruction of ours. Murder of the Universe races along with elements of every heavy sound the band has ever explored, while its illustrious roster of future demons, cyborgs and lords pack the 21-track collection with a nerd’s ransom of rich, heady narration, courtesy of an omnipresent female consciousness. This is the heaviest record King Gizzard have ever made, and it fits the album’s meditations on apocalypse, animal nature and artificial intelligence
perfectly.“We’re living in dystopian times that are pretty scary and it’s hard not to reflect that in our music,” frontman Stu Mackenzie said in a statement. “It’s almost unavoidable. Some scientists predict that the downfall of humanity is just as likely to come at the hands of Artificial Intelligence, as it is war or viruses or climate change. But these are fascinating times, too. Human beings are visual creatures—vision is our primary instinct, and this is very much a visual, descriptive, bleak record. While the tone is definitely apocalyptic, it is not necessarily purely a mirror of the current state of humanity. It’s about new non-linear narratives.” Observer caught up with Mackenzie ahead of the first of two sold-out shows at Webster Hall to understand just how the Murder of The Universe goes down We’re listening to the soothing sounds of Orb [sound checking in the background]. Are you guys bringing them to the States for the first time? Yeah, this is their first time out. We’re three shows in, so I guess this is their third show. They’re an amazing band. [Guitarist] Cook [Craig] and [synth/harmonica player] Ambrose [Kenny Smith] and [bassist] Lucas [Skinner] and I have known the guys since we were teenagers, so it’s kinda cool. It’s interesting to be in another country with your old pals. You’re releasing how many records this year? Five maybe, we’ve kinda got two going. We put out Flying Microtonal Banana, Murder of the Universe is done, which I’m super stoked for. It’s my favorite record we’ve ever made, I think. And the next three we have ideas for. One’s in a state of coming together, and the other two are sort of distant at the moment, but we’ll see. We’ve got a little bit of time at home, so I think we’ll do it. But who knows.
“Let’s do this kind of experiment..it’s challenging us, and it adds some sort of meaning into the worlds of our own personal universes that we all exist within.”
but we’ll see. We’ve got a little bit of time at home, so I think we’ll do it. But who knows. At the end of Banana, we’re flying through a world of radiation, and this sort of clean-air apocalypse seems poised to go down at the end of that record. Then Murder of the Universe begins and the apocalypse has arrived, we’re present with it. Is there a story happening, a narrative connecting the two? Of course, yeah. Murder of the Universe itself is three distinct chapters, by far the most narrative-driven thing we’ve ever done, including Eyes Like The Sky, which was a Spaghetti Western, narrative-driven work. This is probably more narrative-driven than that.We get “Some Context,” but it’s only 14 seconds long!Yeah [laughs], it’s split into three chapters, and they’re linked, but not necessarily perfectly, with one landing off of the other. And it kinda draws on other stuff that we’ve done, it exists in that world. It’s supposed to be three distinct stories. Well the narrator becomes the Altered Beast at one point, and then we get these characters—Lord of Lightning, Reluctant Raconteur—and one of them fights a Lord of the Rings monster. This isn’t Middle Earth, right? This ain’t Middle Earth. It might not be the Balrog from Middle Earth, but he is a sort of fire demon. A rough description of the three stories: “Tale of the Altered Beast” is the first one. It chronicles a human person being stalked by an Altered Beast, which is kind of a distorted half-creature, half-human, which we can maybe all relate to. Eventually the person is consumed by the beast and becomes the beast himself, goes on to cause more havoc, create more beasts, then he dies. It sounds familiar, you know? And then the second story is a sort of ofbattle, it follows a group of people who’ve also been stalked, chased, attacked by a Lord of Lightning, who then subsequently…this is gonna sound so ridiculous [laughs]. He subsequently captures one member of the party, who turns him into a Balrog. The Balrog is kind of pissed off, and a battle ensues with the Lord of Lightning. The party manages to escape and the Lord of Lightning is sort of victorious.And the third chapter is “Han-Tyumi and The Murder of the Universe”…I don’t know, I’ve been reading a lot of things lately. Some people say, a lot of people say that humanity’s greatest threat may be, at this point in time, A.I. That’s the cyborg that comes around later on? Yeah, of course, so you have a character called Han-Tyumi, which is an anagram for
“humanity.” Han-Tyumi is kind of like an idiot child or something, a half-human being maintaining very little of his humanity in the distant future. Han-Tyumi, over time, becomes obsessed with humanity, and wanting to regain some of that.I suppose none of that seems awfully unreal or hard to imagine. He becomes obsessed with death and vomiting. Yeah, he’s a confused cyborg, this futuristic guy who wants to regain his humanity, and he decides the two most human things are death and what we would call vomiting, which there’s no digital equivalent of. The mountain from I’m In Your Mind Fuzz appears to now be covered in puke. Are you guys vomiting with your creative output? [Laughs] Maybe…this album might be a bit of a puke. It might be a completely long-winded version of the story, but you’ve got me talking. The only people I can think of with a similar work ethic to you guys are Neil Young, Ty Segall, and John Dwyer. Listening to a record about apocalypse and technology suggests themes acceleration, that our pace of absorbing and consuming everything is speeding up at a rate we can’t keep up with. Are you guys a remedy to that, with the universe building and the accelerated pace of output always asking us to slow down and spend time with the work?
and it’s a great lifestyle, but you kind of have to add some sort of meaning, as we all do, into our lives. I think that’s part of it. Let’s do this kind of experiment..it’s challenging us, and it adds some sort of meaning into the worlds of our own personal universes that we all exist within. Where does the story continue after the universe is murdered, after the whole fabric that we come to understand has ended? Yeah, “Murder of the Universe” ends chapter three, I mean Han-Tyumi creates a machine, which constantly vomits, and tells him that its existence is terrible. Han-Tyumi, being the confused cyborg that he is, is kind of heartbroken and berserk, I guess. He decides to plug his consciousness into this machine. Being the futuristic world that it is and connected to everything else, the vomit machine actually infects everything in the whole world, or whatever place that they’re in, and sets off a chain reaction that, in short, destroys the universe and the fabric of everything. [Laughs] So it is some kind of ending, and it’s hard to know where the story should go. But it’s not necessarily a linear thing—maybe it’s a flashback or maybe it’s a flash-forward. I think it’s the end. At the moment that’s the hard end, that’s the last page.
I don’t think we’re doing it to make some kind of political statement or anything, but we are children of this generation as well. Maybe we’re caught up in it, but it’s not deliberate. I was born in 1990 and the other guys were born between ’88 and ’92, so we grew up with the internet and that sort of thing, but it wasn’t until we were older teenagers that it kind of became omnipresent. Are you grateful that it didn’t become omnipresent during those younger, formative years? To filter all those milestones and wonder years through a box and a screen? Uh-huh, yeah, and we’re all country boys as well. We all had somewhat cute, sheltered upbringings, and I’m not sure if that plays into it at all, but we’re all pretty fascinated with the modern world. It’s kind of cool to exist both within it and outside of it. How does that play into form and structure of writing? You guys play around and have a lot of fun with form, beyond novelty. How do these processes affect you creatively? I guess the only thing I can say is it’s stimulating…I don’t know what else to say beyond that. All the concepts or ideas behind the records have just been jump-off points. Sometimes making music your’e like, “Why the fuck am I doing this shit?” It’s amazingly fun
by Aurora Mitchell
South Korean producer Peggy Gou had her first experience of composing music at the age of eight years old. In her home city of Seoul, she was learning how to play piano – which, many years later, has now led her to pursue producing and DJing as a serious career. She ended up moving to London in her teenage years, where she was working as well as learning English and studying fashion - including a job at a club in the centre of the city. She tells me exasperatedly over the phone, “I had the worst experience, there’d be girls and guys who would come up to me and say can you play Justin Bieber or Rihanna?”
Five years ago, she started to pick up how to make tracks for the dancefloor, getting lessons in Ableton from Esa of Huntleys & Palmers’ sister label, Highlife. Deciding that she wanted to focus on music more full-time, she gave up her position as fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and moved to Berlin. “When I moved to Berlin, I told myself, I’m only going to do music and I will never work in fashion. I want to look serious,” Gou explains. However, with a nudge from producer friends, she was convinced to do both at the same time. Fast forward to 2016, and Peggy now has two EPs under her belt, the latter being a two-tracker released through Phonica White. It’s a beautiful exploration of the soft and harder sides of Gou’s production – with the first track delving into house with a reverb-drenched piano sample and the second exploring sticky acid sounds, featuring her own voice counting in Korean. Gou used to be a regular customer at the Soho-based record shop and knew founder Simon Rigg beforehand, who asked her to put out something on their label. Speaking to Gou over the phone one afternoon before she headed off record digging around Berlin with her friend, we discussed various topics spanning from South Korean nightlife all the way through to techno
You’re going record digging with your friend later, is that the primary way that you tend to go looking for records or do you also go looking for them online? Peggy Gou: “I do both, I would say 50/50 because with online stuff it’s easier to find music but with record shopping it’s a bit difficult, because there’s more effort and sometimes you find something you don’t expect.” Where do you tend to go record digging in Berlin? Peggy Gou: “I go to OYE-Records often and Hard Wax. Today I was thinking about going to Space Hall, I haven’t been there for a while. I really like that shop but it’s too smoky.” So I wanted to ask - how long you were making demos before you felt you were happy with tracks to release for your first record? Peggy Gou: “I guess four or five years. I was learning production from a guy called Esa [from Highlife] who’s also a producer who does a lot of African music. I was getting a one on one lesson from him when I lived in London. He taught me how to use Ableton, ev-
ery time I’d make something different – I was like “Esa! This is something I made last night, hear it.” That was more than four years ago I would say. I was into a lot of Asian sounds in the beginning. If you listen to my early demos they all sound similar. Then I wanted to be more serious and realised that this was what I wanted to do, so I thought why not try to live in Berlin? So I moved here and worked in a record shop too.” What differences do you notice when it comes to nightlife in London compared to Berlin? Peggy Gou: “I love this question. That was one of the things that when I moved here in October and winter was coming. It was not easy for me to adapt to Berlin at that time because it’s cold, there’s no sun at 3pm and there’s nobody outside. The only thing that I enjoyed to do was going to Berghain every weekend and seeing how people party and dance. In the beginning, I was thinking, “Whoa, this is very different to London.” They party like there is no tomorrow. When you go to most of the clubs in Berlinphotos are not allowed. I think people in Berlin know how to party better. I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol, but the kind of rules, the ‘what happens in Berghain
“I think people in Berlin know how to party better. I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol but the kind of unwritten rules. The ‘what happens in Berghain, stays in Berghain’ kind of thing.” - Peggy Gou
Fast forward to 2016, and Peggy now has two EPs under her belt, the latter being a two-tracker released through Phonica White. It’s a beautiful exploration of the soft and harder sides of Gou’s production – with the first track delving into house with a reverb-drenched piano sample and the second exploring sticky acid sounds, featuring her own voice counting in Korean. Gou used to be a regular customer at the Soho-based record shop and knew founder Simon Rigg beforehand, who asked her to put out something on their label. Speaking to Gou over the phone one afternoon before she headed off record digging around Berlin with her friend, we discussed various topics spanning from South Korean nightlife all the way through to techno purism. You’re going record digging with your friend later, is that the primary way that you tend to go looking for records or do you also go looking for them online? Peggy Gou: “I do both, I would say 50/50 because with online stuff it’s easier to find music but with record shopping it’s a bit difficult, because there’s more effort and sometimes you find something you don’t expect.” Where do you tend to go record digging in Berlin? Peggy Gou: “I go to OYE-Records often and Hard Wax. Today I was thinking about going to Space Hall, I haven’t been there for a while. I really like that shop but it’s too smoky.” So I wanted to ask - how long you were making demos before you felt you were happy with tracks to release for your first record? Peggy Gou: “I guess four or five years. I was learning production from a guy called Esa [from Highlife] who’s also a producer who does a lot of African music. I was getting a one on one lesson from him when I lived in London. He taught me how to use Ableton, every time I’d make something different – I was like “Esa! This is something I made last night, hear it.” That was more than four years ago I would say. I was into a lot of Asian sounds in the beginning. If you listen to my early demos they all sound similar. Then I wanted to be more serious and realised that this was what I wanted to do, so I thought why not try to live in Berlin? So I moved here and worked in a record shop too.” What differences do you notice when it comes to nightlife in London compared to Berlin? Peggy Gou: “I love this question. That was one of the things that when I moved here in October and winter was coming. It was not easy for me to adapt to Berlin at that time because it’s cold, there’s no sun at 3pm and there’s nobody outside. The only thing that I enjoyed to do
was going to Berghain every weekend and seeing how people party and dance. In the beginning, I was thinking, “Whoa, this is very different to London.” They party like there is no tomorrow. When you go to most of the clubs in Berlin, photos are not allowed. I think people in Berlin know how to party better. I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol, but the kind of rules, the ‘what happens in Berghain, stays in Berghain’ kind of thing.” You were previously getting booked in Seoul, what is the clubbing scene like in South Korea? Peggy Gou: “There’s a few clubs out there, and one of my friends has just opened a new club that booked Move D. This scene is slowly growing because Korean people are still going crazy with EDM music – with David Guetta or Steve Aoki. That’s what they’re more into. In Seoul, I’m not just a DJ, I work as many things and when there is an event and people come to hear my music – there’s a lot of people that come up to me and say, “What music is this?” Korean people are not so open minded, so if your friend is listening to Steve Aoki, you will have to listen to Aoki because that’s what people listen to. That kind of attitude is what Korean people have. One of my aims is to make this music better known there, to encourage them to branch out in genres. My very, very first demo was something that I sampled from YouTube, which was a Korean play – a guy kept shouting something in Korean. I was going through all my drafts and projects the other day and I found this demo. I completed the track. I used traditional Korean sound on here and I’m going to let Korean people hear this music, to show them that this is Korean music, not k-pop. A lot of people think k-pop is Korean music.” Have you noticed more Korean producers in your vein of music popping up since you started releasing music? Peggy Gou: “Yes, there are a lot of young, new Korean DJs. There are some really great DJs in town. There are more people trying to learn this kind of music rather than just EDM. It would be nice if I can influence them. I am the youngest and first female DJ who actually made a track and got signed in a label from outside of Korea. I would like to be the youngest and first Korean female DJ that plays in Berghain.” A friend of yours made the video for Troop, what was the story behind it? It’s a really sweet video. Peggy Gou: “It’s a very simple video. I didn’t want to make a music video that featured me in it. This little girl character I found very interesting, I was drawing the little legs and the caps and then I gave this to him and asked “Can you make something with this little girl? I just need a simple video for this dancefloor music, I don’t want anything crazy.” In the vid-
eo, it’s very easily made but I don’t know if you notice but the girl moves with all the music and for every sound something is moving.” You previously talked about how the girl in the video for Troop is symbolic of your first encounter with techno, what was your first introduction to the genre? Peggy Gou: “When I was visiting Berlin, I was always at Panorama Bar and never went down to Berghain; it didn’t feel like it was me – the same track for seven hours. So it wasn’t easy for me to understand techno music in the beginning, this was five years ago. I slowly started to hear good and bad techno and I got interested in techno from Berlin. It’s influenced me a lot. Before, I could tell what techno and house was but it was the city that really got me interested in this genre and digging properly. From my side, I find techno music very hard and that’s not for everyone. I remember my very first love, he was a DJ and he used to play EDM in Seoul. He told me that this wasn’t the music he wanted to do but he said he couldn’t play techno in Seoul. “If you understand techno, you know music,” he said. Now I understand what he meant. I see great house producers and great DJs that all like techno music but when I see techno DJs who don’t even listen to any other kind of music, that’s something that I don’t understand. When I see someone who only does techno and they tell me, “I don’t like disco or house music, it’s not my thing”, that’s not cool.” On your EP for Phonica, there’s a track called A Day Without Yesterday, which has a beautiful piano part. Is that you playing or is that sampled? Peggy Gou: “That track actually samples an old D-Train track called Keep On. Most of my first EP on Rekids contains sample but my Six O Six track on Phonica is not sampled at all, apart from a kick drum. The track is called that because the track is 6:06 and also, I used a TR606 drum machine.” Berlin, I was always at Panorama Bar and never went down to Berghain; it didn’t feel like it was me – the same track for seven hours. So it wasn’t easy for me to understand techno music in the beginning, this was five years ago. I slowly started to hear good and bad techno and I got interested in techno from Berlin. It’s influenced me a lot. Before, I could tell what techno and house was but it was the city that really got me interested in this genre and digging properly. From my side, I find techno music very hard and that’s not for everyone. I remember my very first love, he was a DJ and he used to play EDM in Seoul. He told me that this wasn’t the music he wanted to do but he said he couldn’t play techno in Seoul. “If you understand techno, you know music,” he said. Now I understand what he meant. I see great house producers and great DJs that all like techno music but when I see techno DJs who don’t even listen to any other kind of music, that’s something that I don’t understand. When I
Berlin, I was always at Panorama Bar and never went down to Berghain; it didn’t feel like it was me – the same track for seven hours. So it wasn’t easy for me to understand techno music in the beginning, this was five years ago. I slowly started to hear good and bad techno and I got interested in techno from Berlin. It’s influenced me a lot. Before, I could tell what techno and house was but it was the city that really got me interested in this genre and digging properly. From my side, I find techno music very hard and that’s not for everyone. I remember my very first love, he was a DJ and he used to play EDM in Seoul. He told me that this wasn’t the music he wanted to do but he said he couldn’t play techno in Seoul. “If you understand techno, you know music,” he said. Now I understand what he meant. I see great house producers and great DJs that all like techno music but when I see techno DJs who don’t even listen to any other kind of music, that’s something that I don’t understand.
When I see someone who only does techno and they tell me, “I don’t like disco or house music, it’s not my thing”, that’s not cool.” On your EP for Phonica, there’s a track called A Day Without Yesterday, which has a beautiful piano part. Is that you playing or is that sampled? Peggy Gou: “That track actually samples an old D-Train track called Keep On. Most of my first EP on Rekids contains sample but my Six O Six track on Phonica is not sampled at all, apart from a kick drum. The track is called that because the track is 6:06 and also, I used a TR606 drum machine.” Both EPs show your softer, soulful side as well as the harder techno aspect of your productions – is there a side that you prefer experimenting with?
Peggy Gou: “I would love to make some harder music - not punchy but maybe techno. So far, all of my music that I produce is still a bit soft but I would love to make something harder. That’s why I did the acid track Six O Six. I want to have another EP out by the end of the year and maybe within the next two years have an album ready. My neighbour is Daniel Wang, when I went to his place the other day, he had all these papers on his wall because he’s planning to do an album. He was writing every track on there with the tempo, bassline and everything. It’s like at fashion week when you have boards behind the scenes, and Wang actually said that he was inspired to do that by watching a Raf Simons video. So I think when I make an album, I would love to do that. I want to also put as many genres in as possible – one track may be hip-hop, another may be techno or house.”
D-Train - Keep On (1982)
The Wizard of Ooz Deemed a voice of his generation when he was only a teenager, Archy Marshall returns with The Ooz, an odyssey through the disenchanted worlds inside and outside his skull. by Jazz Monroe
It’s a warm Thursday evening in south-east London, but the backyard of Archy Marshall’s local pub is convinced it’s high summer in Honolulu. Palm fronds and eucalyptus branches line the entryway, as if primed for a visiting toucan. The resolutely un-tropical songwriter known as King Krule sits nestled at a side table, consuming a steady supply of beer and cigarettes. Slouching and lackadaisical, Marshall is a curious fit amid the kitschy opulence, like an outsider art piece hung in an Ikea. Halfway into our chat, a suburban hooligan scrambles downhill by the pub, shrieking at an adversary while a woman clings to his shoulders. Patrons cast wary glances; Marshall barely blinks. “That was weird,” he mutters, before returning to the matter at hand: gunk.
King Krule “The Ozz” ( 2017)
“It’s all about the gunk,” Marshall says, staring me in the eye. The 23-year-old’s new album, The Ooz, emerged from a period of writer’s block rooted in creative exhaustion and personal inertia that stymied him in a serious way. Gunk—a metaphor for the oozing, inexorable forces that make us human—is what binds it together. “It’s all about the shit you do subconsciously,” Marshall goes on, “like the snot, the earwax, your spit, your jizz, your piss, your shit.” He pauses, forgetting something. “Your beard, your nails—all of that shit. You don’t ever think, Wow, I’m actually pushing all this stuff constantly—my brain’s creating all this gunk, this forcefield.” His eyes swing back to his pint. “And I guess that kind of saved the whole thing.” That “whole thing” is the concept driving The Ooz, a dense odyssey through Marshall’s subconscious. It’s the product of fleeting personal obsessions, ideas snatched at, half-digested, and regurgitated as a sludge of fluid, impressionistic music. Over two conflicted years, Marshall variously conceived the album as a revival of trashy punk rock, a conceptual deep-dive into his family history, and a worldly, multilingual mélange, partly dreamed up to seduce a young woman visiting him from Barcelona. It came to resemble all and none of the above: a heady blend of jazz flourishes and neo-soul beats; a diaristic blues opus struck, now and then, by psychedelic grunge thunderclaps; and a surrealistic account of Marshall’s struggles with depression and insomnia, interwoven with dreamlike nods to distant cities and foreign tongues. By the time his Spanish muse flew home last year, with no plans to return, Marshall had amassed enough gunk to fill his creative reservoir. The day we meet, in mid-August, it’s been nearly four years since Marshall released 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, his debut album as King Krule, on his 19th birthday. That record saw him crowned as under-
ground London’s new poster boy—a talented, knife-blade lean misfit seemingly conjured from the urban dystopia of a Mike Leigh drama, with a voice like gravel in a tumble dryer. He sang romantically of disenchantment, tapping into the frustrations of young Londoners swamped by the capital’s aspirational deluge. Since then, Marshall has left a trail of musical footprints—murky post-punk jams, rap productions under his Edgar the Beatmaker alias (including one for Earl Sweatshirt), and 2015’s A New Place 2 Drown, a vibe-heavy hip-hop daydream released under his own name, alongside a book of art and poetry made in collaboration with his brother. But King Krule remains the truest artistic incarnation of Archy Marshall, the project that portrays him as a young man attuned to both the ugliness of the world outside and the more fragile universe within. Since 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, Marshall had found the character he wanted King Krule to portray—his own—in flux. Part of the impasse traced back to his love life: He was seeing a long-term partner, happily, but eventually felt contentment was sapping his creativity. That relationship ran its course, and in early 2016, he invited his Spanish acquaintance to live with him. It quickly became serious. “That particular girl really got me to write this record,” he tells me, gazing into his lap. “I wanted to impress her. Every day, it was like: read this, look at this, come with me here.” The Ooz’s spoken-word piece “Bermondsey Bosom”—which appears twice on the album, in English and Spanish—reminisces about a romance that lifted his urban blues: “Me and you against this city of parasites/Parasite, paradise, parasite, paradise.” Marshall was also disenchanted with the music being made around him. “My boys were all rappers, all beatmakers,” he says. “I’d even influenced them to start creating, and we started to compete.” As his friends’ collective talents grew, Marshall became trapped in a world of his own making. “I took a step back,
“I didn’t know how to cook. We ate a lot of frozen food and takeaways.”
like: Wait, man, I haven’t listened to a good guitar record in ages—that’s what I do.” One day, a mysterious video landed in his Facebook inbox. It captured a solitary baritone saxophonist raising hell under a bridge in east London. With an upcoming improv gig in mind, he messaged the sender, an Argentine man named Ignacio: “Come down and let’s see what happens.” That night, as Ignacio’s sax wailed into Marshall and his friends’ genre-crossing morass, the frustrated songwriter saw his obsessions with jazz, bossa nova, hip-hop, and punk swirl into focus. He entered a period of renewed creativity, and The Ooz crystallized. In his telling, the new songs fall somewhere between sound art—he talks up Dean Blunt and Dirty Beaches, mavericks of reference-heavy pop-noir—and elevator music, the rendering of idle thoughts and ambient isolation. An alluring haze hangs over the record, with rich grooves that seem processed through shot synapses. Melodies creep from the shadows, carrying along lyrics full of abstractions and insecurities. “I saw some crimes when I was young and now my brain is gunk,” he sings on “Vidual.” “I don’t trust anyone, only get along with some.” To better delve into his subconscious, Marshall began to sidle along branches of his family tree, drawing up a psychogeographical map of his ancestry. Researching a diary left by his grandmother—a senior employee at footwear giant Bata—he unearthed a saga spanning Trinidad, Peru, Prague, Berlin, and Panama, before she settled in London. (Marshall says that, while his mother’s side of the family spent the prewar period living “like aristocrats,” their fortunes nosedived in the UK.) Family on his mind, Marshall had his father, an art director and set designer, read “Bermondsey Bosom (Right)” on The Ooz. Elsewhere, the title of “Half Man Half Shark” references a song his dad composed in his youth called “Body of a Man in the Belly of a Horse.” Marshall’s song begins with both father and son shouting a conflation of the songs’ titles, before erupting into a carnivalesque anthem of lust and rage. In the end, Marshall sings: “See world you’ll never know/ At least when you look to the stars they still glow/Well, not for me though.” It’s a classic Krule sentiment—confrontational yet romantic, with a narrator excluded from a universe whose promises linger out of reach. Shortly before our interview, Marshall perches for photos on a stool by the pub’s back door. As patrons spot the camera, startle, and come to a halt just out of shot, he enacts a chummy routine, waving a gregarious arm and beckoning to them: “Get involved!” He repeats the line one time after another, delighting both tipsy parents and kids skeptical of his apparent celebrity. If the attention faintly disconcerts Marshall, he’s learned to embrace it. “I used to sit on the toilet and imagine doing interviews about my music,” he admits later, flashing a grin. “And it happened.”
Marshall and his brother grew up between their costume- and set-designer mum’s house, in south-east London’s East Dulwich district, and, on odd weekends, their dad’s more middle-class flat in nearby Peckham. “My mum wasn’t really there that much,” Marshall says, doodling on a Polaroid of himself from the photo shoot. Does he wish she had been? “Yeah... I wish I got better meals.” He laughs. “I didn’t know how to cook. We ate a lot of frozen food and takeaways.” In other ways, life in a loose, artistic household suited him. Marshall’s mom often took him to concerts, threw wild house parties, and, in quiet moments, would dissuade him from TV in favor of art and music. He remembers writing his first songs at age 8—“the trashiest shit, singing in an American voice”—and later recording prepubescent experiments on a Roland 8-track, the machine that would consume his early adolescence. At a pub just up the road from where he’s telling me all this, Marshall, then around 12, performed what he calls his first “good song.” Impressed, a coterie of pot-smoking, skinny-jean-wearing indie kids drew him into their orbit. Weed and music elevated him from a bored, awkward kid to a wilder entity. He was often excluded from school for, by his admission, “stupid dumb shit where I really deserved it,” usually involving drugs or graffiti. He wound up at an education center for expelled kids. “I was getting bullied,” he admits. “It was quite a weird time.” Marshall met a fellow oddball who seemed to share his interests; every lunchtime, they’d disappear off-site and smoke away their appetites. The local government threatened to imprison his parents if he wouldn’t bend to the education system. A homeschooling experiment with his father ignited little academic passion, not least because his dad’s dawn-till-dusk hours meant Marshall would spend long days alone, burdened with books like Oliver Twist. “That shit was hard to read,” he recalls, grimacing. “Charles Dickens refers to Fagin as an old Jew for a lot of it. It’s like, Ugh, what’s going on!” Boredom had its rewards, though. In his free time, Marshall became enshrined in musical wormholes. “It was a time when music was essentially trash,” Marshall says of the mid-2000s. “Indie, pop, the Libertines, that sort of thing. But it was quite influential on me. Albums like [Justin Timberlake and Timbaland’s] FutureSex/LoveSounds really threw my mind—the production was crazy.” Marshall’s lifeline was the arts-minded BRIT School, where classes mixing politics, sociology, and music history coax unconventionally minded pupils into a relaxed form of education. As Marshall puts it, “I met a load of people who were soft and into similar fucking pansy music I was into.” A major factor in Marshall’s progress was Derek Moir, a senior faculty member and onetime guitarist in postpunk outfit This Poison!, which helped prop up Scotland’s DIY scene in the 1980s. On his first day, Marshall swaggered up to Moir claiming to recognize him—and was promptly sent away. On
another occasion, he walked into class with a foppish, New Romantic-style haircut. “Derek looked at me and said, ‘Why the hell have you got that haircut?’” Marshall remembers, laughing. “There was a really good connection. I hated him but I loved him. But he gave me a place to actually be romantic and be all right with it, rather than going down the same old lines.” Moir remembers the young Marshall fondly. “He was a bit awkward and gangly and ginger but he had confidence,” he tells me, speaking by phone from the BRIT School. If Marshall sometimes lacked patience, Moir says, he made up for it by obsessing over his pet subjects. “Initially he was quite shy, but he was politically and socially aware. He wanted to grasp as much as he possibly could about the world, and you could see he was trying to fuse that with his art.” Marshall’s three years at BRIT weren’t all rosy—he still smoked every day, and when threats of expulsion loomed, Moir was forced to speak up on his behalf. But in the end, Marshall chose his own endings. At 17, partway into a music course, he abruptly switched lanes to art. “He felt he’d learned all he could in music,” Moir says. Nobody seemed to argue—by that point, Marshall’s reputation as a prodigy was cemented. For years, Marshall had been developing a nocturnal crooner style, drawing on the Streets’ UK hip-hop, Chet Baker’s smoky jazz, and the throbbing ambience of early dubstep, all rooted in his teenage marriage-of-convenience to indie-rock. In 2009, when Marshall was 14, he released his debut EP, $Quality, as Zoo Kid. More than the UK’s previous guard of social commentators, Marshall made songs that were dark and soulful, seemingly exorcised from a loner’s mind as he stared at his laces on a dusky corner. “I was getting more into leftwing politics and being like, Fuck all this money shit around me,” Marshall says of the time, not without fondness. Marshall burned around 20 copies of the EP onto CD-Rs and tried to sell them at school for a fiver, complete with stickers and hand-cut inlays. It didn’t take. “No one wanted to buy them,” he says, still mildly affronted. A year later, when Marshall was 15, he released U.F.O.W.A.V.E, a trove of poetic lo-fi recordings including the luminous “Out Getting Ribs.” These songs connected: His warehouse-vast production and epic melancholy made teen isolation sound enchanting. Record labels, fellow students, and music blogs lit up. But Marshall remained unsatisfied, particularly with live audiences. “When I played these terrible pub gigs, and there’d be no one about, I’d stare straight in people’s eyes and sing, like, Yo, you fucking laughing?” he says. “It was a tool to empower myself. I wanted people to be scared of me.” Talking about “Out Getting Ribs,” he continues, “I feel like a lot of people don’t realize, when you’re as soft and as open as that— they miss the anger behind it. Even when I play it with my band, even with people that I
love, I sometimes think, Fuck all of you. You don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. You don’t even know where this comes from. That’s how I treated the music at the time, and I still treat it as a big ‘fuck you.’ I’m angry.” As Marshall’s success brought new challenges, his family flourished in the slipstream. His mom now sells shirts that she designed through Marshall’s clothing site, and A New Place 2 Drown was just one collaboration that brought attention to his brother’s art—in 2014, for instance, the siblings co-created the exhibition Inner City Ooz, a spiritual precursor to the new LP. I ask if, when he was starting out, Marshall’s musical aptitude eased his parents’ concerns about his future. He becomes animated: “You know what—as soon as my music was successful, it was like, Fuck you to everyone. I’m the breadwinner now. I’m the dude who brings in a lot of money and opportunity for all of them.” He straightens his shoulders, a half-jokey gesture of pride. “There’s a certain level of respect that they’ve given me now,” he adds. The plan had been for Marshall and I to chat for an hour and a half, but by the time he’s finished—swerving into discourses on David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Maoism, and broad swathes of postwar European history—it’s near closing time, and the pub terrace has emptied. Maybe it’s the booze, or the lack of lingering ears, but Marshall lets his intelligence reveal itself as night descends. When I ask if he has genuine concerns about upwardly mobile London, he rattles off some communist theory without skipping a beat—“London throughout history was the place of how to control the proletariat”—but finally shrugs, perhaps wary of seeming self-righteous. “Globalization’s about,” he concludes. “I can’t say that I believe in anything now.” Marshall tends to think locally, both in his politics and his insular music, but he’s an unconvincing nihilist. A lifelong resident of south-east London, he’s seen waves of renewal transform his local stomping grounds, particularly in his dad’s neighborhood of Peckham. After sneering at the gentrifiers who swagger down local backstreets, though, he checks himself, finding a sense of empathy. “When you see that dude claiming all of the stuff you grew up in, that pain is huge,” he says, “but that same motherfucker in the stupid getup might be the most real dude.” For all his passion, Marshall can’t help seeing nefarious motives on both sides. “Where do you draw the line? Is it when they benefit you, now that all these hipsters are employing us to play? Well, what a fucking hypocrite you are.” A fleeting couplet on The Ooz— “The cityscape/Bourgeoisie change to replicate”—is a veiled comment on the matter, and one of the record’s few kernels of social commentary. More often, the album speaks to the mental toll of disenfranchisement. Anxiety looms in recurring metaphors— drowning pools, oncoming trains, lonely
moons. The punk dirge of “Emergency Blimp” alludes to Marshall’s unsuccessful state treatment for insomnia with a cryptic mantra: “no help still.” Marshall now limits his weed intake and recently moved back in with his mom, re-establishing an order that waned as he worked on The Ooz at his own flat in London. But he’s still susceptible to sleepless nights and, occasionally, paranoia. “I had a really bad thought—it felt like a nightmare— where I felt tiny compared to all the jazz musicians I know because I don’t play well,” he tells me. “I almost get this scenario in my head where someone turns ’round to me and says, ‘You’re just a fucking pop artist.’ And I started to believe in it for a second.” With The Ooz, Marshall fashioned those same limitations into an unsparingly personal kind of art: Without the vulnerability, the despair, the chaotic ambition—even the writer’s block—the album would not exist. For his part, Marshall seems to have emerged largely unscathed. As the pub closes, he makes small talk with the bartenders while half-heartedly ordering a cab to a nearby house party. In the car, he reflects on a monthlong weed-and-beatmaking binge with Earl Sweatshirt last year, a time of absent inspiration, when self-doubt would cause lyrics to dissolve on his tongue. For a moment he seems embarrassed, but his reticence soon passes. “All my writing was a bit trash,” he remembers casually, gazing out the window, “and I felt under-confident about it.” He turns inward, with an ambiguous grin. “But now I’m back to being this generation’s best poet.”
HERE IS WHY FLORIDA HAS SO MUCH TROUBLE PASSING GUN LAWS By Jesse Hyde Features
THE SHOOTING AT Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day inspired an energetic group of young activists to weigh in on the national debate on guns, safety, and personal freedoms. But as they found their voice, conspiracy theories purporting that they were “crisis actors”—frauds pretending to be students—spiraled across social media and into the mainstream.
As documented elsewhere, this idea of “false flag” operations and actors being used by liberals to stage media stories for political purposes is a long-running narrative in far-right media outlets like InfoWars (and, perhaps worth noting, something Russian propaganda networks have been caught actually doing multiple times in Ukraine). In this case, it is an easy if cynical tactic to discredit the voices of victims and undermine the moral weight behind their message. In the days that followed the shooting, social media companies scrambled to deal with complaints about the proliferation of the crisis actors conspiracy across their platforms—even as their own algorithms helped to promote that same content. There were new rounds of statements from Facebook, YouTube, and Google about addressing the problematic content and assurances that more AI and human monitors must be enlisted in this cause. But there are a lot of assumptions being made about how this content was amplified, and how it got past controls within the algorithmic star chambers. Russian bots, the NRA echo-chamber, and so-called alt-right media personalities have all been fingered as the perpetrators. And, as our research group, New Media Frontier—which collects and analyzes social media intelligence using a range of custom and commercial analytical tools—recently outlined in an analysis of the #releasethememo campaign, there are many contributing factors to the amplification of American far-right content, including foreign and domestic bots, intentional amplification networks, and other factors. Whether it’s fully automated bot or semi-automated cyborg accounts, automation is a vital part of accelerating the distribution of content on social media. But in looking at the case of the Parkland, Florida, shooting and the crisis actors narrative it spawned, there was another important factor that allowed it to leap into mainstream conscious-
ness: People outraged by the conspiracy helped to promote it—in some cases far more than the supporters of the story. And algorithms—apparently absent the necessary “sentiment sensitivity” that is needed to tell the context of a piece of content and assess whether it is being shared positively or negatively—see all that noise the same. This unintended amplification created by outrage-sharing may have helped put the conspiracy in front of more unsuspecting people. This analysis looks at how one story of the crisis actor conspiracy—the claim that David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was a fraud because he had been coached by his father—gained amplification from both its supporters and its opponents. THE STORY BEGAN as expected. At 5:30 pm EST on February 19, five days after the shooting, alt-right website Gateway Pundit posted a story claiming that student David Hogg was coached on his lines as part of an FBI plot to create false activism against President Trump. On Twitter, this story was initially amplified by right-leaning accounts, some of which are automated. Of the 660 tweets and retweets of the “crisis actors” Gateway Pundit conspiracy story during the hour after it was posted, 200 (30 percent) came from accounts that have tweeted more than 45,000 times. Human, cyborg, or bot, these accounts are acting with purpose to amplify content (more on this in a moment). And this machinery of curation, duplication, and amplification both cultivates echo chambers that keep human users engaged and impacts how social media companies’ algorithms decide what is important, trending, and promoted to other users—part of triggering a feedback loop to win the “algorithmic popularity contest.” Some of the better-established networks almost seem to predict what will become a trending story because of the position they occupy in the information architecture of social networks—selecting specific content and then ensuring its amplification.
The crisis actors narrative was being amplified on other platforms, as well. The promotion of stories being aggressively pushed by far-right conspiracy sites raised alarms. YouTube had to intervene to remove a video promoting the crisis actor conspiracy that topped its trending algorithm. Meanwhile Google and Twitter searches were auto-filling “crisis actors” as a search term. FaceBook and Reddit were also being used to promote versions of the story. However, this trending content was not pushed solely from the right. At 6:21 pm, Frank Luntz (@frankluntz, a prominent pollster and PR executive with almost 250,000 followers) tweeted in protest of the Gateway Pundit story, becoming one of four non-rightwing amplifiers of the story with verified accounts. (In most cases, getting content seen by or promoted by verified accounts greatly accelerates its amplification.) The other three are the New York Times’ Nick Confessore, MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin, and former first daughter Chelsea Clinton. Each of them quote-tweeted the Gateway Pundit story to denounce it, but in doing so gave it more amplification. By the next morning, the Gateway Pundit story had been promoted roughly 30,000 times on Twitter. These four progressive influencers were responsible for more than 60 percent of the total mentions of the story. This is a limited example, but it shows quite clearly that this one conspiracy, on one platform, was amplified not by its supporters but—unintentionally—by its opponents. ON BOTH THE right and the left, automated and semi-automated accounts were contributing to the promotion of this story. These accounts serve different functions. Some act like highly curated, low-quality newswires—posting a heavy volume of content from sources with a wide range of legitimacy, but narrow ideological views. For example, the first account to post
the Gateway Pundit story on Twitter, @ Tokaise, actually did so before the publisher itself. This is because the account likely relies on automation software to identify, share, and repost content based on a predetermined list of outlets, social media accounts, and keyword designations. It tweets about 190 times a day, and its 4,100 followers include alt-right influencers (Charlie Kirk, Jacob Wohl, and others). These curated newswires are important players in synthetic information networks—parts of social media that are populated by content even when human users are not engaged. The reposted content helps stories trend; it also lays the groundwork for what human users see when they tune in to their Twitter feeds, where Twitter’s algorithms also helpfully provide content you may have missed while you were away. To get a snapshot of some of the automation in both silos, right and left, we looked at the first 10 accounts to retweet Gateway Pundit founder John Hoft’s original tweet of the article (@rlyor, @ahernandez85b, @mandersonhare1, @dalerogersL2528, @topdeserttrader, @jodie4045, @Markknight45, @James87060132, @AIIAmericanGirI, @ deplorableGOP13) and at the first 10 accounts to retweet Chelsea Clinton’s denunciation of the story (@DOFReport, @AndrewOnSeeAIR, @TheSharktonaut, @CarolynCpcraig, @ guavate86, @NinjaPosition_, @Jjwcampbell, @mikemnyc, @intern07, @maximepo1). In January 2018, the right-leaning accounts collectively tweeted 42,654 times (that’s an average of about 140 tweets a day per account), a fair indicator that at least some of them are automated amplifiers. The largest of these accounts—@AIIAmericanGirI—has tweeted 542,000 times since 2013 (10,000 tweets a month, or more than 300 per day). Her 115,000 followers include Harlan Hill, Charlie Kirk, Tea Pain, Bill Kristol, Mike Allen, and Sarah Carter—all widely followed individuals who help shape opinion across the political spectrum on social media. These known influencers probably don’t follow Girl because she is a self-described “wife, mother, patriot, friend,” or because her avatar is a pistol suggestively positioned in something that might almost qualify as underwear. They follow this account, knowingly or not, because it improves the social media statistics of its followers. The reason: It is embedded in a network that distributes content, adds followers, and garners likes and retweets (some of these techniques are discussed here). Another of these accounts, “Roy” (@ dalerogersL2528), which does little more than retweet Gateway Pundit, promotes and uses Crowdfire, an app that helps users increase their follower count, gain specific kinds of followers, and automate a posting schedule. Roy’s followers include elected Republican officials and candidates for office. Girl and Roy are designed to amplify certain types of content to certain types of users and improve the statistics of those who follow
them in ways that are often quite opaque. On the left, the profiles of automated accounts look similar. In January 2018, the 10 accounts that retweeted Chelsea Clinton’s denunciation collectively tweeted 36,063 times (roughly 116 tweets per day per account). The first retweet was from a self-labelled news aggregator (a newswire-style account that retweets the former first daughter as part of its automated tasking). Another, @TheSharktonaut, which retweets a high volume of left-leaning content, is followed by Democratic lawmakers and candidates—a left version of Roy. @AndrewOnSeeAIR’s Twitter biography claims he is British and anti-Brexit, but this account uses a hashtag meant to create a “follow-back” network amongst anti-Brexiteers—that is, it’s designed to improve follower counts in both directions. His tweets— more than 200 a day—consist almost entirely of left-leaning American content, despite his claim of being British. Right and left, there is a pattern of full and partial automation and amplification. But in this case, the accounts on the left have relatively more modest followings and less well-established positions within the broader information architecture of Twitter. The left has far more verified followers (more than 500); on the right, it’s closer to 200-plus. In some ways, there is the temptation to see a reflection of the party engagement strategies in these information tactics: one side more focused on broader support, while the other is more reliant on a tighter group of elites to achieve the same effect. As time moved on, the right-left narratives on the crisis actors diverged. The right narrative is: This is all a conspiracy and an FBI/Deep State plot to undermine President Trump. The left narrative is: The crisis actor story is an attack on the victims, Gateway Pundit is Russian propaganda, and the story is being amplified by Russian bots. Both sides see a manipulative villain at play (liberal media lies vs hostile foreign propaganda). And on both sides, the cognitive impact of these narratives is to harden political beliefs. Absent more active and accurate sentiment scoring, support and outrage alike can amplify the same content. The bigger question is what to do about automation and computational propaganda—using information and communication technologies to manipulate perceptions, affect cognition, and influence behavior—writ large. Automation accelerates the borderless world, includes state and nonstate actors, and allows a distortion of our discourse and a poisoning of our democracy. It is a complex problem, and it affects us as consumers of information in complex ways. The truth in the crisis actors case was less clearcut and less glamorous than either side of the debate would like to admit. Bots, including likely Russian bots, were promoting both narratives and remain essential elements of computational propaganda, the tactics of which are being used more frequently on social media.
Automation, in a variety of forms, is deeply entrenched in social media’s information landscape. Automated accounts traffic information and impact what we see online, either directly or through their impact on algorithms. Algorithms curate and promote information in ambiguous and sometimes unhelpful ways. Over and over, human intervention is needed to correct the “judgment” of algorithms. And this feels, to some audiences, like a new form of censorship. Social media companies have started to step in to correct the excesses and unintended consequences of automation, but that happens only on a case-by-case basis, particularly in high-profile cases of disinformation and defamation. Responding in this way will increasingly raise questions about who is deciding which automation is bad automation, and which is allowed to continue unchecked. It also leaves regular, everyday users exposed to the same types of defamation campaigns but with far less protections or means of recourse. Sometimes there is the sense that this is just the new way to consume information and we all need to figure out how to navigate it. That whatever is loudest is somehow what is most important, and after that, figure it out on your own. On Reliable Sources this past weekend, David Hogg himself said he wasn’t upset by all the conspiracies because they were all great “marketing,” boosting his twitter following to more than 250,000 people. The younger and the more social media savvy seem to understand this more mercenary approach instinctively. It’s the wildwest landscape that social media platforms have encouraged, knowing that outrage is an effective currency in the so-called attention economy. This terminology camouflages the war for minds that is underway on social media platforms, the impact that this has on our cognitive capabilities over time, and the extent to which automation is being engaged to gain advantage. The assumption, for example, that other would-be participants in social media information wars who choose to use these same tactics will gain the same capabilities or advantage is not necessarily true. This is a playing field that is hard to level: Amplification networks have data-driven, machine learning components that work better with refinement over time. You can’t just turn one on and expect it to work perfectly. The vast amounts of content being uploaded every minute cannot possibly be reviewed by human beings. Algorithms, and the poets who sculpt them, are thus given an increasingly outsized role in the shape of our information environment. Human minds are on a battlefield between warring AIs— caught in the crossfire between forces we can’t see, sometimes as collateral damage and sometimes as unwitting participants. In this blackbox algorithmic wonderland, we don’t know if we are picking up a gun or a shield.
MOVIE “I talked her into getting in the car, I assured her the road was safe. And it wasn’t,” director admits in new interview
Quentin Tarantino Clarifies Role in Uma Thurman’s ‘Kill Bill’ Car Crash by Mike Fleming Jr Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino acknowledged that he is responsible for insisting that actress Uma Thurman perform a car stunt that resulted in a crash that nearly killed her 15 years ago. Thurman’s account of the accident, which chilled relations between Thurman and Tarantino for years, was detailed in a New York Times story over the weekend. Much of the article centers on Thurman’s allegations that she had been sexually assaulted by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Thurman said the accident happened in Mexico near the end of the shooting of the 2004 release Kill Bill Vol. 2 after she had expressed her reluctance to drive a blue Karmann Ghia down a sandy road. She said she had been warned that the car was not operating correctly after its
manual transmission was reconfigured to an automatic. She said she wanted a stunt driver to do the shot. But Tarantino insisted that she drive the car. Thurman posted footage of the crash on Instagram. Thurman told the Times that the crash caused permanent damage to her knees and neck. Tarantino offered his version of the story in an interview with Deadline Hollywood. Tarantino said that in retrospect, the road he thought was safe actually was not and he faulted himself for not doing a double-check. “That was one of my most horrendous mistakes, that I didn’t take the time to run the road, one more time, just to see what I would see,” he said. Instead, believing that the road wasn’t a problem, he persuaded
Thurman to drive around 30 to 45 mph. “Uma’s response was ... ‘OK’ because she believed me, because she trusted me. I told her it would be OK. I told her the road was a straight line. I told her it would be safe. And it wasn’t. I was wrong. I didn’t force her into the car. She got into it because she trusted me. And she believed me.” Watching the star of his movie crash was “just horrible,” Tarantino said. “It was heartbreaking. Beyond one of the biggest regrets of my career, it is one of the biggest regrets of my life.” Tarantino said he went back over the road later and found “a little mini S-curve” that hadn’t been clear to him earlier. He also said he had misjudged how much sand there was in the dirt road. Tarantino said that “a trust
was broken” and that he and Thurman were at odds “for the next two to three years,” before coming to terms with what had happened. “We had a big dinner in the Soho House in New York and there we dealt with all the car stuff, and all the resentments she had toward me. The things she felt I could have done better in protecting her in that movie. And we hashed it all out, put it behind her and we’ve been fantastic friends ever since.” In the New York Times article, Thurman said that Tarantino atoned for the accident by giving her what she had demanded for years — the film footage of the crash. In her Instagram post, she alleges that the producers of Kill Bill Vol. 2, including Weinstein, tried to suppress the footage.
‘Black Panther’ keeps smashing records, exceeding box-office expectations and making history by Elahe Izadi There is vibranium-level energy around Black Panther as millions of melanated people flock to theaters. Of course, most bask in the black pride, love and community of the film, but some are taking advantage of crowd sizes to enact political action. WakandaTheVote, started by Electoral Justice Project founders Kayla Reed, Jessica Byrd and Rukia Lumumba, is trying to register as many voters as possible at the theaters. “This weekend, we wanted to meet our people in Wakanda,” Byrd and Reed told Blavity. “We know that for
some it’s a superhero world, but we know that the world we deserve is still waiting to be built—and we want to build it! This upcoming spring and November 2018 midterm elections are an important step in building that new world, and we want to take every opportunity to engage our communities in the conversation of electoral justice. We will be registering people to vote at movie theaters across the country so that we can #WakandaTheVote at the ballot box.” In addition, many former members of the actual Black Panther Party (or their descendants) are using the recogni-
tion around the name to seek justice for those black political prisoners still behind bars. Former Black Panther Sekou Odinga, who was locked up for 33 years (and famously name-dropped by Tupac Shakur on the Makaveli album), will also be out at New York City theaters this weekend to ring the alarm for his comrades still locked up. “You always feel like you don’t want to leave nobody behind,” Odinga, 73, told The Guardian. “Many are in the worst prisons and the worst conditions, and a lot of them are getting older and suffer from health problems.”
Monifa Akinwole-Bandele, an activist whose father was a Black Panther Party member, said that incarcerated BPP members, like Herman Bell, are repeatedly denied parole in the face of pressure from police unions. Adults I looked up to had taken such a bold stance against racism in America,” Akinwole-Bandele said. “It had a huge impact on me and what I thought was possible.” “This is an opportunity to remind people of the real heroes of the Black Panthers and the conditions they live in today,” Odinga said.
‘Incredibles 2’ Trailer: The Supers Are Finally Back by Bruce Fretts
The Incredibles 2 trailer is out and it looks like Jack Jack is going to steal the show once again with some of the best moments coming from the youngest member of the Parr family of supers. He may have only had a few key scenes in the 2004 original, but we’re expecting him to be a whole lot more prominent in the sequel, which will be arriving on the big screen later this year. The film has been on the cards for a while now, having been announced back in 2014, but other than the homage to Edna Mode’s contribution to the fashion world last year, it had been pretty quiet from Disney Pixar. However, the trailer puts it on the super map straight away and it looks like director and writer, Brad Bird, will be bringing a new progression to the family dynamic story that made the first film such a big hit. The most prominent in the trailer is the working mum/ stay at home dad dynamic that has developed as Helen Parr / Elastagirl is brought out of retirement in a big way. She’s essentially recruited to fight crime and be the face for supers by wealthy businessman Winston Deavor, played by Breaking Bad‘s Bob Odenkirk. This leaves Bob at home to take care of the kids, with Jack Jack’s super transformations, Dash’s maths homework and Violet’s love life being his
biggest challenges. From the look of the trailer, Bob’s got a tougher job than Helen, but we’re expecting him to come through in the end. He’ll have a little support from his best friend Lucius Best / Frozone, played by Samuel L. Jackson once again, but it does look like this is going to be much comfort to him. Luckily, he’ll also have some wise words from super suit and fashion mogul Edna Mode, who is voiced by director and writer Brad Bird. Though the film trailer starts out with the arrival of the Underminer, it’s doubtful that this will be the main focus of The Incredibles 2. This leads a lot of speculation about who the lead villain will be, but when you take into account the news that Catherine Keener will play Winston’s sister Evilyn, you’ve got a pretty big finger to point. The film will be released on the big screen on the 15th June 2018, so we’ll have all of the answers pretty soon and with a great first look trailer, it’s set to be one of the year’s big animated features.
Weinstein Company to Declare Bankruptcy After Sale Collapses
those discussions concluded without a signed agreement,” the Weinstein Company said in a statement (via Reuters). “The Board has no choice but to pursue its only viable option to maximize the Company’s remaining value: an orderly bankruptcy process.” Deadline reports that the Weinstein company blamed potential buyers Ron Burkle and Maria Contreras-Sweet, in a separate letter, for failing to purchase the film and television production company. “We must conclude that your plan to buy this company was illusory and would only leave this Company hobbling toward its demise to the destriment of all constituents,” the letter read (via The Hollywood Reporter). Although all parties agreed that a sale was needed as quickly as possible to salvage the company, “instead, late last night, you returned to us an incomplete document that unfortunately does not keep your promises of February 21, including with respect to the guiding principles set forth by the Attorney General ... You added all new contingencies relating to David Glasser, the former employee of The Weinstein Company who was recently terminated for cause,” the board wrote to Burkle and Contreras-Sweet. The Weinstein Company began looking to sell
last fall amid the allegations against Weinstein. In December, they received approximately 20 offers, which were narrowed to six potential buyers. The highest offers were about $500 million, though as the Wall Street Journal reported, about half of that price would be the assumption of debt. The offers were also low enough that the studio’s owners – including Weinstein’s brother, Bob – wouldn’t receive any cash from the sale. While the Weinstein Co. catalog encompasses acclaimed television shows and movies, it had already borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars against its library, according to Variety. After the sexual assault scandal, the Weinstein Co. was grappling with debt, legal bills, operating expenses and cut several films it could no longer afford. The studio was forced to sell the family film, Paddington 2, to Warner Bros. in order stay afloat. Weinstein was fired from the Weinstein Company last October, after reports in The New York Times and New Yorker detailed his decades-long history of sexual misconduct. The scandal served as a tipping point of sorts, leading to a cascade of similar allegations that spread throughout Hollywood and other industries.
by Daniel Kreps The Weinstein Company announced Sunday that a potential deal to sell the embattled studio fell through following the New York Attorney General’s civil rights lawsuit. The Hollywood giant is set to declare bankruptcy. The announcement comes several months after the studio’s co-founder, Harvey Weinstein, was fired following a deluge of accusations of sexual assault and harassment. “The Weinstein Company has been engaged in an active sale process ... Today,
Inside ‘Atlanta’: How Season 2 Beats the ‘Sophomore Album’ Curse by Peter Smith Fans of the critically acclaimed FX show Atlanta learned early on to set aside their expectations. From the very first episode, the series – about an aspiring rapper named Paper Boi (played by Brian Tyree Henry) and his cousin-slash-manager Earn (played by Donald Glover, also the show’s creator), was a slyly odd ride – storylines would appear and disappear; notes of magical realism would crack the surface; and violence would collide with absurdist humor. It made for a TV experience that felt totally new – and its hyper-specific point of view, honed by its young and entirely African American writers’ room, connected with a way bigger audience than
anyone expected. When Glover won two Emmys – one for his lead performance, the other for directing – he used one of his speeches to declare the Atlanta rap crew Migos “the Beatles of this generation.” But the show’s runaway success created a problem when it came to crafting the second season, which debuts on March 1st. When you’ve already made an episode with an African-American actor playing Justin Bieber, or one that entirely takes place during the taping of a Charlie Rose-ish talk show, or one that features an NBA star driving an invisible car, what’s the most surprising thing you can do? Stephen Glover, Donald’s brother and the lead writer
of many of the show’s best episodes, says that question is one that the core creative team spent a lot of time grappling with. “It’s a different show all the time,” he says “But when you set that up with the first season, keeping [viewers] off balance becomes harder to do – they are already expecting it. And we didn’t want to just re-mine the same stuff for the second season.” Instead, the show surprises viewers by going in the opposite direction, and focusing more on linear narrative and storytelling. Paper Boi, known to his friends as Alfred, grapples with an identity crisis as his growing fame gets in the way of his main source of income, selling weed. Earn,
played by Donald, is a Princeton dropout whose situation in the first season becomes so precarious that he’s essentially homeless; he begins to grow into his role as Paper Boi’s manager. “We’ve kind of been comparing the season to a sophomore record from a new artist,” says Hiro Murai, who directs the bulk of the episodes (Glover helms the rest). “Internally we’ve drawn Kanye parallels – if the first season is College Dropout, this one is Late Registration.” Or as Henry puts it, “The first season created this land of absurdity, whereas the second season is more linear – our feet are definitely on the ground.” One of the pleasing meta-experiences of watching
Atlanta are the ways in which the show’s arc mirrors the circumstances of its creation. In the first season, Paper Boi was unknown, but this time around he’s an established act heading for breakout stardom. “That’s so much like what we’ve been experiencing,” says Murai. “Paper Boi’s first album comes out, and people recognize him and have expectations for what his next album is going to be like. And that is exactly like the anxieties we’ve had about releasing the second season. But we also know the reason the first season was fun and good was that we made it for ourselves, and we’ve tried to keep as much of that mentality as possible.” And Atlanta’s portrayal of the music industry becomes deeper and more gimlet-eyed this season. (Donald, of course, has deep insight into how the game is played, given that he’s released three increasingly ambitious albums under his Childish Gambino moniker.) One of Paper Boi’s foils this season is another local M.C., who loads his rhymes with constant drug references, in style of current Atlanta superstars like Future and Young Thug. When Paper Boi joins the MC in the studio to record a guest verse, he’s dismayed to learn that his clean-living reality doesn’t even remotely match his image. “Rap started as this very black, socio-political type of thing,” says Stephen. “And now it’s turned into pop music – we laugh about how everybody is doing the same thing in all of their songs. They’re all doing the same drugs, drinking the same lean, whether they’re Justin Bieber or the most grimy rapper. Not all of these people are really drinking lean! They just know how to sell records.”on Broadway alongside Michael Cera and Chris Evans in Manchester By the Sea writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s new play Lobby Hero, has gotten accustomed to fans conflating him with his character. “I’m not out there trapping and shit, but there is a sense that I have to think about things and move through my life with some of the consciousness Alfred has,” he says. “And stuntin’ is fun” – he adds, referring to the perks of fame – “but just like Alfred
is learning, it’s not real. He’s learning how to grow in this persona is that he’s created.” Jimmy Fallon conducted The Tonight Show’s “first-ever one-minute interview” with Paul Rudd following the Olympics on Monday night. Due to the time constraint, Fallon’s conversation with Rudd was more like a rapid-fire interrogation. As soon as the actor started to answer a question, Fallon cut him off with a new query. The two ended their minute-long segment by hurtling through the world’s quickest cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” condensing the song into just ten seconds. Fallon’s interviews will be speed rounds all week to make room for coverage of the Winter.Olympics. The
See Paul Rudd Blitz Through Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’ on ‘Fallon’ by Elias Leight Tonight Show is set to air in swift five-minute segments each night after the athletics wrapup. Rudd visited Fallon to promote his latest film Mute, which the actor described as a “sci-fi noir.” vid Bowie. But really this meeting – the second with White House leadership about video games and violence in about half a decade – is about once more explaining to the powerful, but vastly uninformed what a video game is. Weinstein was fired from the Weinstein Company last October, after reports in The New York Times and New Yorker detailed his decades-long history of sexual misconduct. The scandal served as a tipping point of sorts, leading to a cascade of similar allegations that spread throughout Hollywood and other industries.Wait, the candy?!” replies Rudd, 48, genuinely confused.
Jimmy Kimmel Makes Mock TV Ad After New Stormy Daniels Revelation by Joyce Chen Jimmy Kimmel is reveling in the latest development in the Stormy Daniels saga after President Trump’s lawyer revealed Tuesday that he personally paid the porn star and alleged mistress, which would make her NDA void. “This might be the best of all. This might be lie No. 1,” Kimmel said during his opening monologue Wednesday night. “President Trump’s lawyer told The New York Times that he paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket and it had nothing to do with Trump. He was not reimbursed by the president or the Trump campaign. He says he made a private transaction and would not comment on whose privates were transacted on.” Kimmel also harped on the fact that Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, refused to divulge important details about the exchange, including why he made the payment or whether he has made similar payments to any other people over the years. “This story is so unbelievable – I mean, the part about Trump not paying him back is believable – but what kind of an idiot would believe that his lawyer decided to pay a porn star more than $100,000 for no reason?” Kimmel said. “They didn’t have sex? He just decided to give her money? If it wasn’t for this
ad he runs on local TV, this wouldn’t make any sense at all.” Kimmel then ran a faux TV spot featuring a fake lawyer trying to attract new clients with some pretty nonsensical statements. “Have you never had sex with a porn star? Then you need a lawyer to give that porn star large amounts of cash. Not your own cash, his own cash,” the pitchman said. “Michael Cohen is the leader in giving porn stars money for no reason at all.” In conclusion, Kimmel pointed out that Cohen’s recent revelation means something very interesting for late night: if Cohen was the one who paid her off, then her NDA is no longer binding. The Weinstein Company announced Sunday that a potential deal to sell the embattled studio fell through following the New York Attorney General’s civil rights lawsuit. The Hollywood giant is set to declare bankruptcy. The announcement comes several months after the studio’s co-founder, Harvey Weinstein, was fired following a deluge of accusations of sexual assault and harassment.rounds all week to make room for coverage of the Winter Olympics. The Tonight Show is set to air in swift five-minute segments each night after the athletics.
Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux on ‘Mute,’ ‘MASH’ Cosplay and Modern Comedy by James Park
Watch Mute, writer-director Duncan Jones’ years-in-themaking pet project (now streaming on Netflix), and you’ll find yourself in a very familiar, very typical sci-fi noir scenario. The movie’s hero – an Amish, strapping Alexander Skarsgård left voiceless from a childhood accident – lives in a future-shocked Berlin circa 2048. He splits his time between a shabby apartment and the sleazy strip club he bartends at; the latter is also where his blue-haired lady love (Seynab Saleh) works as a cocktail waitress. Then, sud-
denly, she goes missing. And down these mean dystopic streets Leo must go, trying to unravel a mystery amongst the hovering cars, neon lights, polluted skies and broken dreams. So far, so Blade Runner. But lurking on the sidelines is another narrative, one involving two AWOL Army surgeons who ply their trade on the underground sewand-slice circuit. One has a weakness for loud Hawaiian shirts and martinis, as well as showcasing what might best be described as a normal mustache run amuck; the other
sports long, hippie-ish blonde hair and granny spectacles. Both favor smirks over smiles. If you feel like you’ve seen this perpetually wisecracking pair somewhere before, well, that’s on purpose, one more signifying influence worn on a sleeve already cluttered with them. But the dose of meta-anarchy this duo brings to Mute is not just welcome but invigorating, ingenious, life-saving – and that’s completely thanks to the casting coup of getting Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux to play them. And as the two actors sit in a SoHo hotel room, far away from some worst-case-scenario German cityscape and already deep into a press day, they find themselves wrestling with a question that has taxed some of our greatest contemporary minds. “What the hell is Crackle, exactly,” asks Theroux, 46, partially rhetorically. “Wait, the candy?!” replies Rudd, 48, genuinely confused. “No, the app on your phone,” Theroux says, referring to Sony’s bid for a space in the online-content arena. “I see it and I always think, ‘What the fuck are they putting on there?’ Apparently, they have a big comedy slate?” “Well, comedies with midrange budgets, they’re hard to make now,” Rudd notes. “Something like I Love You, Man, [his 2009 brom-com with Jason Segel], around that $35 million budget range … I mean, now they go straight to TV, right?” “Yeah, but that’s because” – Theroux leans forward and talks directly into the digital tape recorder in front of him – “Paul takes $30 million off the top of all of projects and the other $5 million goes to everything else. Please make sure you write that down.” He turns to face his costar. “Not cool, dude.” “I’m totally worth it,” Rudd deadpans. Justin Theroux in ‘Mute.’ Keith Bernstein / Netflix It’s the well-honed repartee these old friends bring to their oddball characters – who, it turns out, aren’t as peripheral to the plot as they initially seem – that adds a whole other dimension to this Raymond
Chandler-meets-William-Gibson thriller. They two have only worked together a handful of times, most notably in David Wain’s 2012 comedy Wanderlust, where Theroux played a commune Casanova and Rudd spends an ungodly amount of time practicing hillbilly dirty talk. But they’ve known each other since the mid-1990s, when they “ran in the same circles, knew the same folks,” Theroux says. “When we finally met, we just sort of hit off right out of the gate.” Watching them in Mute, it’s apparent that these guys have a natural double-act screen chemistry that’s hard to fake. The second thing you pick up on is that they look like dead ringers for MASH’s Trapper John and Hawkeye Pierce. Not the TV versions – the original countercultural pranksters played by Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland in Robert Altman’s 1970 comedy. Which is, according to everyone involved, anything but a coincidence. “The original MASH – it’s my absolute favorite comedy,” Jones admits, when reached over the phone. “The idea that these guys were based directly on Trapper and Hawkeye was always there, even in the script’s earliest incarnations. I mean, you have a protagonist who doesn’t speak at all – how do you balance that out? You give him two characters who can’t shut up. I knew the [parts] needed to be cast as a pair, because you had to get the sense that there was a long history between them. And Paul and Justin already had that. “More importantly,” he adds, “if you go back to Altman’s movie and watch those guys, you realize: They’re kind of dicks. I mean, they’re not very nice people at all, yet I can’t help liking them, though. So what if you take that to the extreme and go: Well, what if these charming, carefree guys who are so witty turn out to be the villains of the film?” “Yeah, ‘Go watch MASH’ – that was Duncan’s homework assignment to us,” Rudd admits. “We both immediately went, ‘Oh, I get it. Right, wardrobe, with that mustache,” Theroux says. “I saw you and just yelled., ‘Holy shit!’”
Dr. DisRespect: The Man Behind Twitch’s Most Notorious Champion Opens Up About Family, Fame by Peter Smith Fans of the critically acclaimed FX show Atlanta learned early on to set aside their expectations. From the very first episode, the series – about an aspiring rapper named Paper Boi (played by Brian Tyree Henry) and his cousin-slash-manager Earn (played by Donald Glover, also the show’s creator), was a slyly odd ride – storylines would appear and disappear; notes of magical realism would crack the surface; and violence would collide with absurdist humor. It made for a TV ex-
perience that felt totally new – and its hyper-specific point of view, honed by its young and entirely African American writers’ room, connected with a way bigger audience than anyone expected. When Glover won two Emmys – one for his lead performance, the other for directing – he used one of his speeches to declare the Atlanta rap crew Migos “the Beatles of this generation.” But the show’s runaway success created a problem when it came to crafting the second season, which
debuts on March 1st. When you’ve already made an episode with an African-American actor playing Justin Bieber, or one that entirely takes place during the taping of a Charlie Rose-ish talk show, or one that features an NBA star driving an invisible car, what’s the most surprising thing you can do? Stephen Glover, Donald’s brother and the lead writer of many of the show’s best episodes, says that question is one that the core creative team spent a lot of time grappling with. “It’s a
different show all the time,” he says “But when you sdet that up with the first season, keeping [viewers] off balance becomes harder to do – they are already expecting it. And we didn’t want to just re-mine the same stuff for the second season.” Boi, known to his friends as Alfred, grapples with an identity crisis as his growing fame gets in the way of his main source of income, selling weed. Earn, played by Donald, is a Princeton dropout whose situation in the first season
becomes so precarious that he’s essentially homeless; he begins to grow into his role as Paper Boi’s manager. “We’ve kind of been comparing the season to a sophomore record from a new artist,” says Hiro Murai, who directs the bulk of the episodes (Glover helms the rest). “Internally we’ve drawn Kanye parallels – if the first season is College Dropout, this one is Late Registration.” This quote, most of all, recalls the colorful world of pro wrestling - Stone Cold attacking his maniacal boss Mr. McMahon in the hospital, with throngs of onlookers cheering all the while. But, for Beahm, it’s not just about the competition, or even the mammoth PUBG, or any individual game. “I don’t want to rely on a single game’s success,” he says. “I don’t want to rely on any video game. That means expanding the Doc, along with his evolving personality and ego, into other markets or spaces. I can’t go into details, but I’m very excited.” Even with the faucet on and the waterfalls of cash rolling in once more, Beahm tries not to let it go to his head. He might play Dr. DisRespect, but, to him, the line between Guy Beahm and the mulleted shit-stirrer that’s made him notorious has never been starker. ’“I don’t really consider myself famous in any fashion. To me, I’m just goofing off on camera for six to eight hours a day. That’s what it literally feels like. Fans of the critically acclaimed FX show Atlanta learned early on to set aside their expectations. From the very first episode, the series – about an aspiring rapper named Paper Boi (played by Brian Tyree Henry) and his cousin-slash-manager Earn (played by Donald Glover, also the show’s creator), was a slyly odd ride – storylines But the show’s runaway success When you’ve already made an episode with an African-American actor playing Justin Bieber, or one that entirely takes place during the taping of a Charlie Rose-ish talk show, or one that features an NBA star driving an invisible car, what’s the most surprising thing you can do? The way of his main source of income,
Video Games Remain an Easy Out For Politicians, But Change Will Come With Time by James Park This week, some mix of representatives for the U.S. video game industry will bundle up their studies on violence, charts showing off economic impact and global reach, explainers for ratings systems and maybe even a game or two to meet with President Donald Trump. The meeting is ostensibly about what the game industry can do to help with the prevalent issue of gun violence in America and the seemingly constant threat of school shootings – despite any correlation between the two. But really this meeting – the second with White House leadership about video games and violence in about half a decade – is about once more explaining to the powerful, but vastly uninformed what a video game is. No, they’re not just for kids. Yes, they’ve moved beyond the playful bits and nonsense of Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Mario Bros. No, they don’t cause violence. Yes, they can be for good, both in shaping opinion and expressing powerful ideas. The game industry
meeting with President Trump is a reminder that despite the booming economy of making and selling games, despite the near-ubiquity of playing games and despite the view – earned through both great works and a Supreme Court decision – that games are art, video games are somehow still considered pop-culture adjacent by many of those in power, bits of child’s play wrapped in big numbers and fancy graphics. When Good Morning America’s first discussion of games in recent memory – if ever – is about a fascination with the time spent playing them and what bad they can do; when savvy NRA-approved politicians can still subvert a potentially historic, national conversation about the circle of death and guns that threaten to drown America by pointing to video games; when a medium backed by more than $100 billion in revenue and enjoyed by 2.6 billion people worldwide struggles to find mainstream coverage in mainstream publications, it’s clear that an aging or disconnected few are doing the most
important form of expression for a generation a great disservice. There is a culture war being waged in America that fights against the notion that video games are nuanced, interactive pieces of expression that can be and should be anything a creator wants to make them. Does that include toys? Sure. But also an unsettling creation for pigs meant for slaughter. Or a means of escape and communication in a tightly-held communist country. Or an over-the-top first-person shooter. Or a valuable tool for treating phantom limb syndrome. Or a hackand-slash role-playing game. Or FDA-approved video game prescriptions. Three years ago, former game developer and scientific visionary Gilman Louie warned that video games were losing this culture war in America. He noted that while the Entertainment Software Association has done a great job of winning over many on the hill, the battle for the hearts and minds of the public continues almost unabated.