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22 Rob and Big: 21st Century Odd Couple
A hit TV show about a massive black bouncer and a diminutive white skateboarder living together as roommates seems like a natural. What may be surprising is how much this seemingly mismatched pair has in common. Now, MTV’s Rob and Big discuss their unlikely friendship as life inevitably conspires to pull them apart.
28 Jim Lindberg: Punk Rock Dad
Punk rock, perhaps the ultimate anti-authoritarian music, may seem to have little in common with fatherhood, which is inescapably authoritarian. But according to Jim Lindberg, the singer/songwriter behind veteran SoCal punkers Pennywise and the author of the new book Punk Rock Dad, the two aren’t as far apart as they may seem.
34 Damien Hobgood: More Grace than Pressure
Surfing world title contender Damien Hobgood has been pummeled by big waves, sharp reefs and angry fists. Recovering from an injury that is keeping him out of the top spot, he reveals an ocean half-full philosophy, speaking about the good life.
40 Van Hunt: His Way
Although his first two albums were favorably compared to Prince, Curtis Mayfield and Sly Stone, Van Hunt wants you to know that he’s his own man. Hunt explains why he steadfastly refuses to compromise, and why the only relationships that matter to him are with his son and his music.
44 Natalie Walker: Primetime Songstress To avoid hearing a Natalie Walker song may require a conscious effort, with her music popping up everywhere. The woman behind the music is an opinionated and talented straight shooter—and we wouldn’t have her any other way.
50 Deryck Whibley: Creating with Odds and Doubt
There’s nothing like a near-death experience to increase one’s thirst for life. Just ask Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley, who nearly witnessed the dissolution of his band before deciding to regroup and get serious.
54 Taking Back Sunday: Throwing a Curveball
Turning away from the “fashionista underground” that so often characterizes rock music, Mark Rubano and his band, Taking Back Sunday, aim beyond the hip–out of the park, toward timelessness.
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Departments 14 Pulse
Halle Berry, Russell Crowe, Robert Duvall, John Cusack, Casey Affleck, Mia Sorvino
16 The Fiver
James Haven, The Royal Heist, Sarah Lance
58 Expressions: Estevan Oriol - Family Values
In an industry dependent upon airbrushed beauty and armies of makeup artists, the screen image sometimes fades as something far more intriguing emerges. Seeking to “capture the person at their most beautiful,” Estevan Oriol accomplishes this without trickery.
66 Up to Speed
Billy Corgan, Underoath, KT Tunstall
68 Movie Reviews 70 Music Reviews 72 End Note
Eric Clapton’s prayer for sobriety
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3 1. Corey Moss – Writer Jim Lindberg (page 28) “I read Jim Lindberg’s Punk Rock Dad over a European vacation with my wife that just happened to be our first trip away from the kids. It made me miss them even more, but fortunately the book is so funny I was always smiling.” 4. Owen Leimbach – Writer Estevan Oriol (page 58) “I initially picked up and read this magazine for two reasons: 1. the look and 2. The personal stories of people I thought I already knew. I can’t think of another artist who brings more of both of these qualities than Estevan Oriol. Not only are his images intensely personal and essential, but they convey something more about people we thought we already knew.” 3. Bil Zelman – Photographer Jim Lindberg (page 28) “Photographing Jim Lindberg of Pennywise was about as laid back as shooting can get. We drank good beer, shot a little, were joined by his gorgeous wife Jennifer and their three beautiful daughters—working and playing until the sun went down. I hope we all cross paths again very soon.” 4. Sarah Polk – Writer Deryck Whibley (page 50) “My interview with Deryck Whibley was quite an eyeopener. Pushing away all the ‘Avril gossip’ revealed a side of him most casual listeners haven’t been acquainted with. He’s an exemplary humanitarian and the greater good for which he uses his celebrity status should be an inspiration for his punk rocker peers.” 5. Trish T. Teves - Writer Natalie Walker (page 44) “Natalie Walker’s ideas are well thought out and full of 10 :RISEN MAGAZINE
conviction. While many publicists would cringe at our conversation, Walker seemed undaunted about discussing religion, adolescence and an old broken heart.” 6. Tim Tadder – Photographer Rob & Big (Cover, page 22) Damien Hobgood (page 34) You’ve probably seen Tim Tadder’s work, whether you know it or not. The photographer, who specializes in arresting sports imagery, has worked for everyone from Southwest Airlines to Gatorade to Yamaha. He shot cover subjects Rob & Big on location at the Hollywood hills home the two share. www.TimTadder.com 7. Elizabeth Glass – Writer Sarah Lance (page 16) “I was thrilled to catch a few minutes with the woman behind my favorite blanket. A brilliant red with yellow flowers and black material cascading across the bottom, it’s soft, cotton and homemade. But it’s not your grandma’s quilt: the women who hand-stitched it have called brothels their homes; their stories begin without the luxury of sleeping under one of their own quilts with the same person for more than two nights in a row. This is what Sari Bari director Sarah Lance and I chatted about: the gift of homespun comfort from women who started out sharing their beds with men too numerous to count.” 8. Tyler Shields – Photographer Taking Back Sunday (page 54) Tyler Shields’ first book, 4x5, was released this year and he’s already hard at work on his second, dubbed The Dirty Side of Glamour. To shoot Taking Back Sunday, which was on its way to L.A. from Las Vegas, he met the band in the desert between the two cities. “You do what you have to do,” Shields reflects. www.TylerShields.com
9. Rene Velasco – Photographer Natalie Walker (page 44) Rene Velasco specializes in fashion photography, having shot for L.A. Fashion Week, Style Zone TV and many others. His work is online at www.ReneVelasco.com. “It was a pleasure working with Natalie,” he says. “I enjoy her music because it is reminiscent of Portishead, and I wish her the best of luck.” 10. Estevan Oriol – Photographer Expressions (page 58) “Forty-five countries later, I’m still not satisfied. I wish I could see it all—the world that is. Since I’m going to live till I’m at least 100 years old I’ve got plenty of time. The only thing I need is some extra money, hard work and that’ll come.” www.EstevanOriol.com 11. Mr. Otis - Writer Rob & Big (page 22) “Good friends aren’t easy to come by these days, especially in big cities where it seems most people are just passing through. The fact that Rob and Big Black are actually friends made spending a few hours with them more fun than work.” Glen La Ferman - Photographer Van Hunt (page 40) Glen La Ferman rose to fame as the prime chronicler of the ‘80s L.A. hard rock scene that called West Hollywood home. The Sunset Strip’s legendary Rainbow Bar & Grill is liberally adorned with his photos. In shooting Van Hunt, the musician “asked me to put Ratt on the stereo and we were on our way,” La Ferman recalls. “The coup on my part was getting him to take his head scarf off, revealing a ‘Mr. T’-style mohawk.” www.GlenLaFerman.com
The Spiritual Edge of Pop Culture
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF :: Steve Beard MANAGING EDITORS :: Nicole Aseia, Reid Davis FOUNDING EDITOR :: Chris Ahrens COPY EDITOR :: Dane Wilkins CONTRIBUTING WRITERS :: Trish T. Teves, Jeffrey Overstreet, Troy Meier, Owen Leimbach, Sarah Polk, Kelli Gillespie, Elizabeth Glass, Kimmie McPherson, Corey Moss, Mr. Otis
ART DIRECTOR :: Rob Springer PHOTO EDITOR :: Bob Stevens CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS :: Estevan Oriol, Bil Zelman, Tim Tadder, Tyler Shields, Rene Velasco, Glen La Ferman ILLUSTRATION :: Zela WEB/MULTIMEDIA :: Andrew Harrill NEW MEDIA PRODUCTION :: Owen Leimbach PUBLISHER :: Michael Sherman ASSOCIATE PUBLISHERS :: Dan Alpern, Nick Purdy ACCOUNTING :: Cynthia Beth ADVERTISING :: Dan Alpern, Asher Wood RISEN Magazine is a subsidiary of RISEN Media, LLC. The views expressed by the subjects interviewed in RISEN Magazine are not necessarily those shared by the staff or publishers of RISEN Media, LLC. All interviews are recorded live and exclusively for use by RISEN Magazine. Interviews remain the sole property of RISEN Media, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of RISEN Media, LLC. PRINTED :: USA
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Cover Photo :: Tim Tadder
jan/feb:Letter From The Editor
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albeit moody and short-tempered—actor who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Nevertheless, he’s a far more complex individual than some of the pugnacious stories that end up on the gossip pages. When not working on a movie set, he’s a devoted rock musician who’s been playing in his band for more than 20 years, as well as a rancher who tends to several hundred Black Angus cattle. As a world-famous actor with a young family, he prefers his Australian acreage to the bright lights of Hollywood. Crowe has a formidable intellect, a puritanical intensity toward his craft, and a probing spiritual curiosity. “Growing up, we always had this odd relationship with the church,” he confessed to actor Paul Giamatti two years ago in Interview magazine. “Though we didn’t really go as a family, my mother was totally fine with the idea of me going to church on my own, so I’d go and have a look at a Catholic service or a Presbyterian service or an Anglican service. I went to a temple. The Baha’i faith is something I looked at as well. Although I wasn’t brought up in a religious household, I’m a very inquisitive person about it, and, just the same as with my acting, I’ve taken things from various sources that mean something to me.” Crowe went on to say, “Finding a way of discussing what’s going on inside you is healthy, as is finding a way to forgive yourself for stupid [stuff] you do—and a way to acknowledge that you’ve done something stupid. If religion means anything to me, it’s about that.” These are the kinds of observations that intrigue us at Risen. We are committed to exploring the collision of faith and pop culture and place the highest value on creativity, spirituality, artistry, and redemption. Laced between our stunning photo spreads, we ask the big questions and attempt to unearth the roadmap that musicians, athletes, actors, and artists use to guide their lives. In other words, we want to provide a forum to discuss what is going on inside a person. What makes you tick? What lights your fire? Who do you look up to? Do you believe in forgiveness? What’s your take on redemption? Is there life after our stint
on earth? I can’t help thinking that these are the kinds of questions Crowe wrestled with in his secluded wooden chapel before the dome, complete with stained-glass elegance, was added. Crowe told Glock that, in addition to being the place where he married Danielle, his firstborn son Charlie was baptized there—something he never experienced at a young age. Crowe then reported that when his second son Tennyson is baptized, “I will too.” Glock was startled. “You plan to get baptized now, at 43?” she asked. “I’d like to do it this year,” Crowe responded. “My mom and dad decided to let my brother and me make our own decisions about God when we got to the right age. I started thinking recently, If I believe it is important to baptize my kids, why not me?” During the ritual of baptism, those participating are told that it is an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” It sounds exactly like the kind of thing Crowe longs to signify. “I do believe there are more important things than what is in the mind of a man,” Crowe said. “There is something much bigger that drives us all. I’m willing to take that leap of faith.” I wish him the best on his journey. After all, a tricked out Bentley can only take you down the highway, but a soul striving for eternity can lead to a more consequential destination.
photo: Kenny Wilson
As much as I hate to admit it, I am often strangely mesmerized by MTV’s Cribs. Jealousy, bewilderment, and a tinge of bling-lust fuels my fleeting passion for the program that has featured Missy Elliot’s dope sneaker collection, Tony Hawk’s 65-inch plasma HDTV, Trick Daddy’s shark tank, 50 Cent’s heliport, and Mariah Carey’s gargantuan closet. Seemingly every episode spotlights refrigerators well-stocked with Red Bull and garages well-stocked with customized Bentleys. I was thinking about my ridiculous infatuation while reading a recent Men’s Journal interview with Russell Crowe. The Oscar-winning actor, who starred in American Gangster, lives on a 1,400acre ranch near Coffs Harbour, north of Sydney, Australia. In an occasionally testy and contentious exchange with interviewer Allison Glock, Crowe discussed his freewheeling penchant for spending money. After admitting that he had a “black belt” in shopping and that he has “retail therapy issues,” he was asked, “What is the most extravagant thing you’ve bought for yourself?” Crowe responded, “Building the chapel on the farm where we got married.” Huh? A chapel? Well, it turns out that Crowe was referring to a gorgeous $400,000 dome sanctuary inspired by the kind of European skylines found in Paris and Rome. “I needed to convince Danielle [Spencer] we didn’t have to travel to Rome to get married like she’d always dreamed of, because I saw all the paperwork involved. So I had to manage that disappointment. I built her a Byzantine chapel of her own. It is consecrated and everything.” Chapels are as common on Cribs as, say, Camrys and outhouses. The dome was actually an addition to a small, rough-hewn chapel that Crowe had built on his property for personal reflection and contemplation. “In the long term,” Crowe said, “it isn’t really extravagant at all. Because we don’t have to travel to Rome to see where we got married. And we use it all the time.” At first glance, Crowe does not strike most observers as the most likely person to own a chapel. He has the reputation of being a brilliant—
Steve Beard Editor in Chief
by Kelli Gillespie John Cusack – Martian Child
>> On Raising Kids
“That’s the struggle—that’s kind of the balancing act you have to play. You’ve got to fit in and kind of socialize them, you have to go along, and get along, and be a part of society, but at the same time you don’t want to do that at any cost that you lose who you are, what makes you interesting and special. And lots of the most interesting people don’t feel like they’re normal, or fit into the crowd, or just go with the flow, they go the other direction… and that’s what makes them great.”
Mira Sorvino – Reservation Road
>> On Teacher Influences
Halle Berry – Things We Lost in the Fire
>> On Accepting the Good in Life “We get so bogged down with the details of life and sometimes distracted by material things of life. We often forget the simplicity of life, which is the good around us—people, relationships, love, family—I think we should remind ourselves of that more often.”
Russell Crowe – American Gangster
>> On Keeping Integrity in the Industry
“I have a really simple process of deciding what I want to do. It’s a real basic thing— I don’t care what the business of it is, what its potential is, etc, etc. Has it touched my heart? Has it given me goosebumps? That’s most likely the thing I’m going to do. And I know I should be thinking more in the terms of business and blah, blah, blah—people give me that sort of advice all the time. But within what I do, the principle thing…Is this story something that I have an emotional connection to? And if it is, that’s what I do, and if it isn’t, I don’t do it.” A veteran both broadcast and entertainment journalism, Kelli Gillespie travels regularly to both U.S. and international locations interviewing the biggest names in the entertainment industry. Talking one-on-one with top talents, she uncovers what drives these celebrities -- their hopes, passions, fears, and of course, their current projects. With the world at their feet, what impact, if any, are they leaving? 14 :RISEN MAGAZINE
“I had a lot of great teachers that I can look back on and think they were special people in my life. I admire them and they made we want to do more of whatever it was—there were drama teachers, there were English teachers, there was my 4th grade teacher—all these wonderful people. Teachers are really sort of the unsung heroes of our country because we learn so much. They nurture us, they become our parental figures when we’re not with our parents, and they can sort of make or break a kid in a way.”
Robert Duvall – We Own the Night
>> On His Parents Encouraging His Acting Career
“They pushed me into acting, my parents. When I was floundering around academically, they were the ones...I didn’t know, and they said, ‘Try this.’ Absolutely, a real nudge. And then when I was in the service [U.S. Army] they said, ‘Maybe you should go for officer’s training,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m outta here. I’m off to New York,’ and that was it. But they were the initial ones—which is unusual.”
Casey Affleck – Gone Baby Gone
>> On Working with His Brother Ben “He was so good, it made it really easy. He never put on the ol’ director’s scaly cap and got the megaphone out, ya know. He was very inclusive, collaborative, flexible, easygoing on set, full of energy and good ideas. He’s a good leader and I think the whole thing had a very easy, natural feel to it.”
Grand Inquisitor: Elizabeth Glass
A fiver with Sarah Lance, social entrepreneur and director of Sari Bari (www.saribari.com)
RISEN MAGAZINE: How did you initially get the idea to use old saris to provide opportunities for women to escape sex slavery in India? Sari Blanket was not a new idea. The Sarah Lance: The poor of India and Bangladesh have been making them for a long time by taking their old saris and recycling them to make a blanket that keeps them warm in the cooler months.
RM: What do these blankets symbolize to the women who make them? new life, hope and a safe place. SL: Freedom, We have been in the red-light areas since 2002, sharing
in the lives of the women, and we saw a need to provide a place for them to “go to” from the red-light district. We saw the parallel, of taking something old like a sari and making it new, in the women of red-light districts’ lives. We want to see the transformation of one who had been tossed aside, just like an old sari, and see a life made new.
RM: How many women have found refuge in Sari Bari work? How is their livelihood comparable to their labor in the sex industry of India? we have one primary unit employing 12 women SL: Currently, and a partnering unit which employs ten women. We will be taking an additional five to eight women for training in December at the primary unit. We have spent many hours praying and wrestling with what fair wages mean and have come to the conclusion that we do not want only to pay fair wages, but just wages. We used the fair wage calculator from World of Good to set the minimum standard and have added multiple additional benefits for the women, including health care,
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a savings plan, and school assistance for their children. The pay is comparable in some cases, but more often than not, exceeds what the women were making in the trade.
RM: What is it like for women with such personal experiences to come together and work on new, tangible projects with other women who have similar but unique backgrounds? think the sense of community and family is really powerful SL: Iamong the women at Sari Bari. They are literally working
with their neighbors. Most of the women working at Sari Bari come from a handful of brothels and they are responsible for bringing each other out of the trade; we have very little to do with it most of the time. We are just cheerleaders along the road and catalysts for more women to have the opportunity to leave. Most Sari Bari ladies have remained in the brothels and act as powerful agents for transformation within the red-light community. The Sari Bari ladies walk to work together, share their lunches, and share the commonality of walking the road of exodus out of the slavery of the sex trade.
RM: What do you envision for Sari Bari’s future? Bari will be two years old in February and we will be SL: Sari celebrating what God has done in the lives of the 22
women who have begun to have freedom on so many levels. We are currently looking for a larger location so that we can have the space to welcome more women into the Sari Bari family. We hope to be able to employ about 40 women by the end of the year and expand the products available. We will continue to dream for the transformation of the red-light districts and the hope of lives being made new, not only through employment, but in the arms of Jesus.
LA’s The Royal Heist may be one of the few bands to spawn a clothing line—Elmer Ave.—based on stage apparel. The band’s Marani Vodka-sponsored tour is currently crisscrossing the U.S.
A Fiver with Ward Robinson, guitarist in The Royal Heist
Grand Inquisitor: Nick Purdy
Risen Magazine: We read online that you changed your name from The Scene to The Royal Heist because some company was using it—what’s the deal? we first started the band, part of the Ward Robinson: When agreement was to call ourselves The Scene almost sarcastically about what we thought was going on in LA at the time, which is very scene-based. About six or seven months ago we got a cease-and-desist order that was telling us that we could no longer use the name cuz there’s a web site that sells music for commercials—instrumental-type music. We had lawyers look at it and they told us that we would have a 50/50 chance of winning the case and it would take about five years. We said, “Let’s just get a new start and a new beginning. Let’s just get a new name.” We picked The Royal Heist after a long process and we are really excited about it.
RM: There’s a zillion bands. Why should your band matter to Risen readers? A majority of the bands right now are copycatting a WR: procedure or a process that other bands have used to
make it and get famous. I think that what’s special about our band are our influences and that they haven’t changed. We’re a bunch of real guys. In terms of spirituality, one thing I would like to keep as the centerpiece of my band is friendship. I think a lot of bands are brought together to make money. Our band is a bunch of guys who were playing in separate rock ’n’ roll bands but hung out all the time and shared friendship and looked at each other and said, “Why don’t we play together?” Also, I think we completely and totally respect the sanctity of original music and how lucky you are to find like-minded people you can play in a band with. We won’t spit out a product that sounds exactly like somebody else. We want to put out a product that we believe in.
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What’s the most positive thing that your band could make happen here on Earth? Bringing excitement and motivation to people. I think WR: Wow! that if people can listen to our music and get some kind of
positive feeling out of it, whether they connect with the dark lyrics of one song and say, “Yeah I feel that way too. I’m not in this alone,” or if they hear some of the more exciting sounds that we use in some of our more high-energy songs and think, “This is a good release”—I think, either way, bringing some excitement and letting someone hear a bunch of regular guys being able to come together and create a product that they want to do someday will inspire them to get in their garage with a guitar.
RM: How would you feel to be called “the West Coast Strokes”? an extremely flattering comment to hear from WR: That’s anyone. We’ve heard it quite a few times. I think what The Strokes do is great. It is definitely a throwback and we definitely don’t shy away from admitting that a lot of our influences come from the ’60s, ’70s, and punk rock. We definitely have some punk rock influences in us but we also have some modern sounds in us from bands that we like—including The Strokes— that create a melting pot.
RM: What’s your most very awesomest song that we should hear and why? making me pick one of my babies! As far as mass WR: You’re appeal—people from all ages and all walks of life can connect to it—“Lips Tool.” It’s extremely catchy but it still has a very rhythmic garage, punk-rock sound to it. There are some pretty creative elements all the way from the verse to the chorus. I would say as far as expressing our band itself, probably “Past is the Past.” The lyrics are really very important to us. It is basically saying, “We’ve all made mistakes; we’ve all been stupid in our lives. We’ve all done great things too. So leave all that stuff behind and start moving forward and do something with your life.”
A Fiver with James Haven, actor and social activist
Risen Magazine: If you were given the choice now, where would you spend your childhood? place, city, or neighborhood where James Haven: Any there was great open-mindedness. It’d be full of mixed races and different cultures all respecting each other. All walks of life together in one community! That would be my dream ... it’s actually a wish for all children. They say that children are the greatest in heaven, but I say the greatest on earth too. All children [should] be able to have clothing, food, water, education and a healthy upbringing.
RM: You were instrumental in creating a Youth AIDS Summit at Rick Warren’s church this past year. How can the youth contribute to a solution? Because they themselves are the solution. They’re our JH: future. Youth are more passionate than anyone on the
planet. Yet sadly, they don’t get the respect they deserve. What they need is empowerment. Don’t tell them what not to do. Ask them what should be done. For example, imagine: instead of a father scolding his children for what they did wrong, he asks his children how he could be a better father.
Grand Inquisitor: Owen Leimbach RM: What advice would you give a young filmmaker if they wanted to change the world with a film? would tell them three things. First, the only films that will JH: Ichange the world are the films that have universal appeal,
a common ground. Second, you need to be committed to exposing the truth—the unfettered, sometimes nasty truth. This can be difficult but it’s the only way to forge through the muck of this world to create a better one. Finally, ask yourself if you’re willing to withstand attacks from all those who don’t want you to change the world. Pioneers never have an easy path.
RM: Do you think there will ever be a tabloid publication about celebrities practicing virtue? only way I see that happening is if society at large JH: The admired those qualities in a person. Right now we live in
an age where the more immoral one is, the more attention he gets. We are programmed to admire scandals, downfalls, extramarital affairs, rampant drug use, etc. But if it were the in thing to be upstanding, then absolutely!
RM: If someone could take only one trip in his or her life, where would you recommend and why? of their bubble. Seriously. They don’t need to travel JH: Outside around the world. All they need to do is go outside the world they so covet: money, power, status, etc. So many don’t realize that their “lives” are the biggest problem in their lives.
JAN/FEB 2008 - Department 19
Writer: Mr. Otis Photos: Tim Tadder
f contradiction was measured in carats, Rob Dyrdek and Christopher “Big Black” Boykin would be the Hope Diamond. Consider the stats: TURF: Dyrdek, from Ohio, is true Yankee, northern, corn-fed stock. Boykin is as Southern Mississippi syrupy as can be. SIZE: Dyrdek stands (on his tiptoes) at 5'7" and might hit 135 pounds after being chucked into a pool. The latest mathematical projections have Boykin somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 pounds and 6'enormous.” STYLE: Dyrdek is so thorough, obsessive and focused that he compulsively immerses himself in the most mundane details of his projects. Boykin is so mellow and laid back that you might fall asleep just listening to his dulcet tones. But in 2003, Dyrdek (professional skateboarder) and Boykin (professional bodyguard) created the skit heard ‘round the skateboarding world when Dyrdek hired Big Black to “deal with” security guards who were trying to run him out of skate spots. What has grown from that skit is now a global phenomenon, a hit show on MTV, but most of all, a true friendship. Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine.
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Risen Magazine: Do you still have family in Mississippi? Big Black: I do. A lot of my mom’s family is down there. In Chicago, that’s more my dad’s family there. I kinda go back and forth.
have to bring a suit. I always bring a suit when I go there because I always go to church on Sunday when I’m there. Rob forgot to bring the Armani so he had to wear my uncle’s suit.
RM: Was your town in Mississippi integrated at all when you were growing up? BB: It’s still the same in the South. One race is over here, the other is over there. That’s pretty much what told me that I had to move on cuz I’m not about all that. I went from having white, Korean, Mexican, and Puerto Rican friends [in Chicago] to having one set of friends who were all black. That was just not the life I wanted to live. I wanted to be around a lot of different people. I wanted to understand different races. When you understand people, you understand they’re not different. That’s why I came to California. I joined the Navy. I skipped college for a couple of years so I could join the military, become a man, see the world a little bit, and serve my country.
RM: Did you have a pretty good sense of what you wanted to do when you got out of the military? BB: When I got out of the military, I only knew one thing and that was staying out of trouble. I started off as a delivery driver. Then I started doing security part-time. I went from there to working at the clubs and doing security there. Then I went and got my qualifications for a guard, got my firearms license, went through all the classes, took anger management classes to learn to deal with idiots. I started working in Vegas and L.A. Then I took over as the head man at a night club in San Diego. Then after that I met Rob.
RM: Was the brotherhood in the military a step up from the South for you? BB: We were a team, 456 guys. I knew everybody’s last name because I was the cook. I saw them every day. I served them every day. So it was sorta like one big happy family. RM: Do you like helping people out? It seems that being a cook and a bodyguard are helpful sorts of professions. BB: Well, when I went in to the service … let’s just say I’m very picky about my food. So when I went in I thought I could be a cook or an accountant. RM: So your first bodyguard gig was for a chili bowl? BB: I had to hold it down because we had a lot of disgruntled … we used to call it mess-cranking. If you’re just coming in and you’re new to the ship, you have to work for the cooks for the first couple of months. You have to clean up, assist in cooking, and a lot of people didn’t like that. Thought it was crappy. And I used to catch a lot of those guys deliberately messing with the meals. RM: Did you ever have any scary moments on the boat? BB: We were in Korea on our way to Busan during a heavy storm and all the cooks had to stand low-visibility detail on the front of the ship with binoculars. The ship was rolling and as I was making my way up, my whole body actually fell over the side. I was holding on trying to get back over. If I would have let loose they probably never would have found me. That was the first time I ever looked death right in the face. It was real scary, man. I just sat up there and was in shock for about 45 minutes. RM: Did you write a lot of letters after that? BB: I didn’t tell anybody but my mom. She was just like, “God was with you.”
RM: Did your mom bring you up religious down in Mississippi? BB: Oh yeah. Every Sunday it was church. You don’t go to church, you don’t get to watch football. You don’t go to church, you can’t go outside, you can’t watch ball, you’re pretty much in your room, so that’s the choice. RM: What lessons did you have to teach Rob when you took him down to Mississippi? BB: I pretty much had to teach him that for church on Sunday you
RM: What did you think of skateboarders when you first met them? BB: I’ve always thought those guys were pretty tough. Personally, if I were going to be doing stuff like that, I’d rather be playing football. That way, if I got lucky enough, I’d get real money to do it. Some of these [skateboarders] make real money though. That’s why Rob is so amazing with business and skating. He made a business and made companies out of [skateboarding]. A lot of guys don’t do that. A lot of guys are washed up and don’t have the smarts to really do that. Skating is a business like anything else. It’s a love, but if you want to live and stay in the sport—stay in the game—you have to have a business model. And that’s what Rob has. RM: Did he teach you about hustlin’ or did you teach him about hustlin’? BB: Rob’s got his certain hustle, and I’ve got mine. We’ve got different types. He knows the skateboard hustle, I know the street hustle. RM: I hear you’re going to be a dad. BB: I’m 35 man, I think I rode it out. I stayed safe and I made sure that when I was at the right age to have a child I was gonna do it. And I think now—35, successful show, things are going well—I can bring a child into this world and take care of it. That’s why I did it. RM: There’s definitely a big responsibility there. BB: Exactly. And I wanted to make sure that I was a responsible adult before I even decided to pull that off. So I must say, I waited and the rewards are there. I can’t wait. RM: I’m sure you’ve had bad experiences with roommates before in the past. What are a few bits of advice you have for choosing a roommate … how do you and Rob make it work? BB: First of all, make sure you and your roommate like different types of women. This is before I got my girl you know? [Rob and I] like different types of women ... I like ’em thick, he likes ’em skinny. I already know that Rob will never catch me at his girl’s and I know I will never catch him messing with mine.
Secondly, separate bathrooms. You don’t want to share a bathroom with your roommate. I like to leave the door open. Rob likes to lock himself in. I like to be cool—take my shirt off. I just sit and relax, reading U.S. News & World Report. Third, Rob has a big coffee fetish. But he leaves [his coffee fixings] in the sink until [someone] comes and picks them up. Now, I’m a military guy. You kept your kitchen spick-and-span. You would get written up if your kitchen wasn’t right. So that’s it … bathroom and kitchen. JAN/FEB 2008 - Feature 25
Risen Magazine: What did your folks think of you moving out to California at 17? Rob Dyrdek: Your son is quitting high school to be a professional skateboarder. If you’re from the Midwest, none of that makes sense. In the Midwest, you have to graduate from high school, get to college and get yourself a wife and a job. RM: Once you got your feet under you did those conversations change? RD: It’s tough to say. You’re proud of your son to a degree but you’re still worried. Not even a year ago my mom asked me if I had enough money [saved] to go to college. I’m 31-years-old, I’ve got a $1.7 million house in the [Hollywood] Hills, driving a Bentley, [and she’s] asking me if I’m going to college? RM: You have a movie in the works called Street Dreams. Is that your story? RD: That movie came out of hearing that one of the Baldwin brothers had written a skateboarding movie. I was like, give me a break, this guy doesn’t know anything about skateboarding. RM: Where did you pick up your business sense? RD: There was this gentleman by the name of Jimmy George who I got my first sponsor from when I was 12-years-old. It was a local skate shop. He was only 19 and he had started a skate shop. He was one of the original partners in Alien Workshop. He was always opening stores and companies, and it was something that influenced me very much in my youth as sort of a way to go. I’ve had so many successes and failures that I’ve learned so much along the way. RM: What were some of your failures? RD: One of my original companies was Orion Trucks. I had put together one of the most influential groups of skateboarders on one team in the last 10 years but the company itself could not back it up. I watched the product not meet everyone’s standards and the company slowly dissolved. It made me much more aware of who you partner with. My next really big failure would be [my] independent hip-hop record label. [From that experience] I got this huge epiphany: “You are a skateboarder. Why in the hell are you involved with drug dealers and angry hood rappers?” RM: Sounds scary. RD: I’ll tell you [what] was sketchy. I took all of the clothes out of my closet and all of the clothes out of Big Black’s closet and we made packs ... [we called them] Hobo Hook-ups. We put [the clothes] in these clear packs and we’d just throw them out to bums. We went down to Skid Row and when we opened up the back door we got swarmed by, like, 80 homeless psycho dudes ... that was pretty scary. RM: What goes through your head at a time like that? RD: I’m thinking, “Man, Big Black’s about to get beat down by these homeless people.” It was sketchy.
RM: What did you have to teach Big Black the first time he went to Ohio with you? RD: How to sleep on a really small bed. Kettering is pretty easy ... just good Middle America. RM: You have a real connection with your hometown. You put a world-class skate plaza there. RD: I did that for a lot of reasons. I knew what a huge impact it was going to have on the sport. I wanted to give back ... I had nothing to skate when I was growing up, now they have the best place on earth to skate. It was a lot of opportunity for me across the board, including getting so deep into it. I went all over LA taking photos of places that I 26 :RISEN MAGAZINE
skate. I measured it, put it into [Adobe] Illustrator files, had a 200-page reference book, taught myself to draft at 30:1, drafted it to the millimeter. And it’s an incredible thing for my parents too—to have the Rob Dyrdek Skate Plaza. They go there every day and talk to the skaters and sign autographs: “Rob Dyrdek’s Dad.” RM: What are you obsessing about right now? RD: I wanna take any land that the [City of Los Angeles] is not using and say [to the city], “Just give me the land.” If it’s 3,000 square feet, then I’m just going to build a pathway with two benches, just like a regular street spot. My goal is to build 100 all over the city. My truest obsession right now is developing a plaza-style league. It’s still pretty far off. I’ve done a lot of the groundwork and I’ve been talking to a lot of people. Skateboarders are to me the ultimate rock-star athletes. Street skating is the king of that, but there’s no format for them to shine. Videos come out every two to three years and you wait for someone’s part to see their two or three hardest tricks. I want to create a format where [there are] incentives to do those two or three tricks live in a real street environment on Saturday afternoon for big money. RM: What makes it work between you and Big Black? RD: We’re going to go with the drawbacks of living with a giant man. Number five: He’ll blow a washer and dryer out in a heartbeat. It’s like washing four sheets when he washed two shirts. Four: I’ve got two chairs blown to bits. Three: If you have food in the house, kiss it goodbye, it’s gone. Two: If he has a chick over, you might as well leave. But number one is definitely that he leaves the bathroom door open when he does his business. You walk by and he says, “What’s good?” Nothing’s good. You’re naked. But he’s awesome. He’s a great dude in the realest way. For me and him it’s just been an interesting run. Clearly we pushed the limits of what we do because we’re making TV, but we have a lot of fun. RM: He’s getting ready to start a family. How is that going to change the dynamic? RD: It completely does. This is sort of our separation. He’s a dad, plus he’s wifed-up. RM: Do you and Big Black get to philosophizing on things? RD: I try constantly to try to bring him into philosophy and supernatural stuff … but he’s as solid as a brick. Not remotely interested … In my younger days I was really into alternative thinking and lifequestioning. I almost sort of grew out of it without getting any real answers. A lot of [my interest] came from dealing with how religious my parents were … trying to get answers to the simple questions. Is everybody else going to hell besides you and the other Christians? So there was that sort of struggle. And then my last girlfriend came from a family where they don’t have TVs, they all let their hair grow down really long, and they don’t have churches they meet in halls. So dealing with all of that …
RM: How did you even meet her? RD: I met her in a strip club. Real talk! I’m not gonna kid you. Probably one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever seen in my life, and one of the smartest—I’ve never met a girl who made me feel dumb until her—was a stripper. She was just from a crazy, crazy world. We would have very deep conversations. But over the last couple of years I’ve almost faded into such militant focus that it’s like I’m running to the end of the race to relax and then figure it all out … start to contemplate it all again. The third season of MTV’s Rob & Big premieres January 8, and DVDs for Seasons 1 and 2 are now in stores.
jim g r e b d n li
Writer: Corey Moss Photo grapher: Bil Zelman
rash a late-night chat room for working mothers and you’re guaranteed all kinds of banter about “work/life balance,” the catchphrase used to describe a daily routine of spreadsheets and soccer games, power lunches and Spaghetti-O dinners. As the singer of punk rock stalwart Pennywise and father to three pre-teen daughters, Jim Lindberg has his own take on the term: “More like work/life unbalance,” he deadpans. His life is one giant oxymoron. It’s on full display in his new memoir, Punk Rock Dad, a hilarious telling of the musician’s struggle through the world of diaper duty and PTA meetings. “It was fun to write for the most part,” Lindberg says, “except for the times when I would just be getting into it and the kids would need something or the band would need something. That’s my world in a nutshell.” Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine.
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Risen Magazine: Just a couple pages into the book I thought to myself, “Wow, this dude can really write.” Are people surprised that you have an English degree and now a published book? Jim Lindberg: It’s hard to be to be somewhat insulted when the biggest question I always get is, “Did you have a ghostwriter?” Like it’s some celebrity puff piece and I’m Nicole Richie or Paris Hilton, who can’t string a sentence together. No, I definitely was heading for a career in writing and the band was a sidestep away from that. I’m actually working on another book right now. I’d tell you all about it but I don’t want to ruin the surprise. RM: What spawned the idea for Punk Rock Dad? JL: I started writing a book about the Hermosa Beach punk scene, just cuz I feel like it’s always underrepresented in terms of the impact it’s had on punk, not to mention bands like Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine, who cite Black Flag as a huge influence on the
just do it my way, which is the best way to do both. RM: Do you ever take stories from, say, the Warped Tour and apply them to a lesson to teach your kids? JL: No, but there are times I bring them with me so they can see what’s going on, but the entire time I’m looking around just making sure they’re not seeing something they shouldn’t be. I’m pretty conservative in that sense. That’s probably a big misconception about a lot of punk rock parents—that we’re about free love, free drugs, we just let them see and be exposed to anything. I wait a long time before I let them see movies I think are questionable. I have a lot of conversations about the important issues. At the same time, I’m not the guy who’s cracking a whip. I know how that can backfire. RM: At one point you basically say that procreating is the meaning of life. JL: After I wrote that I worried that certain people might take that the wrong way. I just kind of looked at it as, in a world where there are all kinds of religions and people trying to discover the meaning of life, we know we’re biologically driven to reproduce and there must be a reason we continue to do it. At the same time, with the punk world and the nihilistic scenes that were the ’60s or ’70s, a lot of us were looking for some kind of deep meaning. Everything seemed so screwed up and pointless. Finally, it gives you a purpose. You have kids and you realize, I finally have to take on responsibility, even though I don’t want to. I finally have to take life seriously, even though I never have in the past. Punk rock is about taking the piss out of everything, and being a parent teaches you lessons about not being a jackass, lessons some people never learn. Whether or not that’s punk rock, I couldn’t care less.
I do n’t care if I’m pun rock an ymore b k think I ecause I e a r n ed my stri p explosiveness of their music. Then you look at bands like Blink 182 and Good Charlotte, who wouldn’t be around without the Circle Jerks and Descendents. Those three bands came from a small town, and I wanted to write about why they started here. The very end was starting to talk about what it’s been like for our band to follow in the footsteps, and then I was writing about what it was like being a dad and being on tour. And just as I was writing it, our booking agent took on a literary agent and they sent an e-mail out asking if anyone could write a book called Punk Rock Dad. I said, “I already have it going.” The original idea was to do a sarcastic parenting guide and make fun of that whole idea, but they were more interested in it being a first-person narrative.
RM: Speaking of, I love the stories like the meltdown at the IHOP. Were those triggered once you started writing? JL: A lot of it came really easily because I have the basic rules. I just had to think of a situation. In that case it was laying the groundwork in advance. I continue to teach myself that lesson almost daily. If I just would have warned them before the birthday party that if they act up, we’re going to have to leave, they won’t act up. But if you forget to tell them that and they act up, then it’s your fault. RM: The book is basically about living in two widely different universes, which is quite a challenge, but I imagine it’s also part of the fun. JL: It’s gotten to the point where I don’t care in either world if I’m perceived as the perfect one or the other. I don’t care if I’m punk rock anymore because I think I earned my stripes. I was 12 years old in 1977, the year it came out. So it was part of my upbringing and I lived through [punk]. I don’t have to debate with people what’s punk and what’s not. I just get off on the music and always have. At the same time, there are all these crazy ideas of what’s a good parent. Now I
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RM: Do you feel disconnected with adults who say they never want children? JL: Not at all. I can definitely understand that. I’m the first one to tell you it’s a hell of a lot of work. It’s frustrating and rough. I would do it over and over and have 10 kids if I could, but at the same time, I can understand. Especially people who don’t have a proclivity to it, or it doesn’t feel natural to them—it’s way, way, way better that they don’t. It sounds crazy but there should be some kind of system where people couldn’t have kids who aren’t ready for it. That institutes a pretty horrible upbringing for the kids. RM: I love the story about dreading the parent group meeting and then having to be dragged away from it. Do you feel like having kids has opened your mind to new people? JL: Most definitely. You meet people from all walks of life with all different perspectives. It makes you a lot more tolerant of opposing views as well. You can understand why some people feel different ways, instead of it being the typical punk rock, self-righteous, “my way is right.” You have a hundred friends exactly like you, who listened to Wasted Youth growing up, so it’s kinda cool talking to someone who
listened to Willie Nelson growing up, has never been to a Black Flag show, and likes Bush. RM: You also write about losing Jason [Thirsk, Pennywise’s founding bassist, who committed suicide after relapsing into an alcohol addiction]. How hard was that for you? JL: That was the single most difficult part of the book. I stressed out about it all the way to the end. It was really a struggle for me, especially since the book is supposed to be lighthearted. But there was no way I could leave it out, because that’s what was going on as I had my first child. I just tried to relate the events as they happened as candidly as I could without drawing out the subject, because the truth is it took me over a decade to process and get through. It wasn’t something I got through quickly like I do in the book. It was a horrible time in my life, but at the same time I had to get ready to have a kid. What I tried to do is have that be advice for people who think that having a kid will be the only thing going on in their lives. There are so many other things and that’s what makes you lose your mind in the middle of it. It’s not going to the hospital, it’s getting in a fight with your mother that makes you snap. You realize that’s the pressure hitting you in other places.
it’s meant to be lighthearted, but there are a lot of powerful ideas in this book. JL: That just came along as I was writing. I was thinking, “What do I really want to say at the end of this?” I’ve always been defensive about the whole alternative punk rock generation. I think a lot of us are really thoughtful people, and the reason we sing songs with our fists in the air is because we are concerned about the world out there. I wanted to put out there that, as parents, we have the ability to teach our kids about tolerance and being open-minded, instead of the situation today, which is people teaching intolerance. That’s one of the major problems in the world today—that and a lack of compassion. People need to realize we’re all in this together. RM: Has any of this been creeping into your songwriting? JL: I hope so. I have a few songs for the next record, but who knows if they will make it. Everyone has very different ideas to what the Pennywise sound should be. I really want to get back to being the band we were when we started rather
That’s o n t h e w o r e o f t h e m aj o r pr obl ld t o da ems i n y—that compas a n d a l ac we’r e a sion. Pe opl k of e n e ed ll i n th t o r e al is t og e ize ther.
RM: I imagine that forced you to think a lot about life and death. JL: Absolutely. I’ve heard that a lot of people have these experiences, but I had a very, very realistic dream where Jason came and explained the situation to me. He said he made a mistake and felt bad and that he was sorry and he was going on. He explained it to me without speaking. Then I brought him into the auditorium of our high school and everyone cheered for him and he walked away. It was one of those things where I had to sit up and say, “What was that?” It was kind of like a waking dream. That tripped me out. I was a born-again Christian in high school. I’ve definitely had my wandering paths through spirituality. It gave me cause at the time to consider what happens afterwards. Various experiences and different readings I’ve done makes me realize there’s a lot more going on than we know. I’ve never been an atheist, I’ve always been kind of an agnostic or doubting Thomas, but at the same time, it’s opened me up to new ideas about how much we know and how little we know. RM: Have you addressed religion with your children? JL: I’m a firm believer in letting individuals make up their own minds on things and not continue to pass on the dogma that’s got us into the problems we’ve had in the past, and at the same time leaving them open to take out of it what they feel is valuable. I think there’s a lot of value in the Bible and other great works inspired by something bigger than ourselves. What I’d like them to do is take the faiths out there and form something cohesive with their own beliefs. If they find that in the Catholic Church, great. If they find that in Buddhism, great. I just hope they find something, because it’s hard to have nothing.
than politics, which is a band about positive messages, as un-hip as that is. There’s nothing more rewarding to me than having people say, “You really helped me through a difficult time.” I’m really getting tired of a lot of the hate messages out there, even from us. I’m tired of playing songs throwing out negativity. RM: Speaking of the band, I’ve been dying to ask, who’s more challenging to babysit, your kids or [Pennywise’s notoriously untamed guitarist] Fletcher? JL: Oh, that’s easy. My kids are my kids and at the end of the day I somewhat have the authority. The other grown up child-man is much more difficult to control and I stopped trying years ago. At the same time, we’ve both found ways we can rub off on each other, as much as we’d both rather not rub each other at all. RM: Were there parts you were nervous for your wife to read? JL: She was laughing at a lot of stuff. She said you have to put this stuff in there because it’s so freaking funny, even though it’s going to embarrass the hell out of us. So I did and then various people we know kind of freaked out about it. Then she was like, “God, I can’t believe I let you put that in there.” Behind every one partner is the other, so we’re partners in crime on this one. RM: Well I look forward to the sequel on how to raise a teenager. JL: Oh, I need a book for that one.
RM: That’s something you touch on at the end of the book, about not passing along the negative notions of today’s world. You said JAN/FEB 2008 - Feature 33
world champion surfer from Florida is about as likely as a Winter Olympics team composed primarily of Hawaiian athletes. Florida—as most surfers know—rarely has surf of size or quality. And yet there have been four world professional surfing champions from that southern state: Lisa Anderson (four titles), Freida Zamba (four titles), Kelly Slater (eight titles), and C.J. Hobgood (one title). And while C.J. continues to place highly on the world tour, his twin brother, Damien, surfs a lot like him. In fact, Damien has finished as high as fourth in the world and has won numerous major events, including one this year in the world’s most ferocious surf—Teahupoo, Tahiti. If you didn’t know better and met Damien at the corner store, you would think he was just another nice guy with a cool pickup truck, a southern drawl and a pretty little family consisting of wife Charlotte and daughter Savanna Grace. On land it’s difficult to detect the unquenchable fire burning within. If you ask him about it, however, he’ll probably tell you what—actually who—lit the original match.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine. Writer: Chris Ahrens • Photos: Tim Tadder • Grooming: Meredith Buzas
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Risen Magazine: You’re on the injured list; how does that work for a professional athlete? Damien Hobgood: I can’t do all the things I used to do, but it’s a good time to refocus. I’m a pretty positive person, and when I get down a little bit it’s actually harder on my family than it is on me. But I know things happen for a reason. RM: You had just come from a strong win in Tahiti, where you had been injured two years ago. DH: That’s the hardest, when you’re on a little roll, feeling good, and something happens. It kind of throws you off a little bit, but all things work together, so you just keep pressing on.
RM: The average surfer would die of fright at places like Teahupoo or Hawaii’s Pipeline. Why do you think some people hold it together in extreme conditions, while others of equal ability never leave the beach? DH: Now that I have a kid, I wonder if that is put into certain people by God from birth. I wonder if kids were extreme when they were young, or if they grew into it. You know, some parents will tell you about their kids jumping off the jungle gym, and nothing ever scared them. RM: Were you that kid that was jumping off the jungle gym? DH: No, not really. I was always sort of middle of the road. I wasn’t too extreme one way or the other. RM: Were you pushed to be extreme by your brother, and your brother, by you? DH: That definitely helped, but I wouldn’t say that was all of it. You see him do something and you know you could do it. RM: When you’re pinned to the bottom of the ocean beneath a wave, what crosses your mind? DH: If you exert your energy to come up and the next one’s coming, you’re gonna be done. I remember one time, it was the first wave of the set and I came up, hoping there wasn’t a wave behind it. There wasn’t, thank you Lord! But I was seeing stars, lightheaded, and had to take a break for a while. RM: What do you think would have happened if there had been another wave of equal size and power to meet you? DH: Who knows? But God definitely has a hand in my life, so I don’t have to worry. If it’s my time, it’s my time. RM: Have you ever prayed under water? DH: Yeah, but usually you pray when you see what’s about to happen. You need to stay calm, but how calm can you be in a life or death situation? Still, the calmer you are, the better your chances. RM: I’m not advocating anything, but I’ve always heard that drunk people survive head-on collisions for just that reason. DH: Yeah, cuz they’re so like, whoa! Survival in the ocean is not about being able to hold your breath a long time; it’s about being calm. RM: Do you think extreme sports are mostly mental? 36 :RISEN MAGAZINE
DH: Yeah, for sure. You see these guys in motocross or skateboarding and they’ll pull a trick that has never been pulled before. It’s because they’re so mentally strong. RM: The mental calculations of doing something that has never been done, or that you’ve never done, must happen so fast. DH: You’ve got to be thinking about it a little bit, but a lot of times you just go for something and see how it pans out; react while it’s happening. RM: Sometimes a wave seems to move in slow motion when you’re in a critical position.
DH: Yeah, I think being in the moment, everything slows down. It’s amazing God built us that way. [Michael] Jordan used to talk about that, how it felt [like] you could just see everything; all your senses were heightened. RM: Four seconds on the couch goes by like nothing, but four seconds in the tube must really take a long time. It makes me realize that time is not a fixed thing. Sitting in the dental chair for 30 seconds lasts two weeks. DH: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, yeah. You can have long hours and you can have short hours. That’s definitely a long hour. RM: Is there anyone on the tour who’s your nemesis? DH: There’s no one guy, but there will be certain times in a year when one guy is my Achilles’ heel. That doesn’t mean he looked at it that way. To him it was probably just another heat that he won. You remember the heats you lost a little more than the heats you won, I think. RM: What do you think you would have done if you hadn’t been a pro surfer? DH: In about 11th grade you get asked, “What are you going to do with your life? What college are you going to go to?” I remember thinking, “I don’t want to go to college, I just want to surf.” I wasn’t thinking about being a professional surfer, but what job I could do that would allow me to surf when there are waves. I thought I might be a mechanic. I like fixing things . . . RM: Do you think a surfer has an advantage spiritually, because they’re in the ocean? DH: When you’re not in control of the situation it can cause you to start searching. RM: How did you become a Christian? DH: You always hear that voice, that knocking at the door, that pulling of the chain, whatever you want to call it. For me it wasn’t one extreme incident, it was an accumulation of things that happened over my whole life. RM: How do you think your life would differ if you hadn’t made that decision? DH: I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am in surfing. I mean, my
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brother and I aren’t freaks, we don’t have some crazy natural ability or some crazy thing we can do. We’ve blown it a lot of times, but we’ve also been obedient and we’ve been blessed because of it. C.J. has a world title, and I felt he was ready for that and that God gave it to him.
DH: Nah. Traveling’s great, but surfing perfect waves, especially by yourself, gets old really quick. If the Lord said, “I’ll give you perfect waves alone, or your local break with all your friends,” I wonder who would pick the waves by themselves? I know what I would pick.
RM: Is there a Bible verse you depend on more than others? DH: I think it’s in Matthew where it says, “Even the wind and the waves obey Him.” No matter how gnarly the ocean is, 25-foot waves
RM: So even our dreams can turn into our own private hell. DH: Again, it’s a balance. There are times when you do need to be alone. Happiness to me is time with friends and family, fellowship. It’s
or something, God can stop the ocean, like that. In competition, you’re competing against the guy, but the other half of the battle is with the ocean, trying to get the rhythm, to get the right wave. Jesus could get the best waves if he wanted. [Laughs]
a blessing in a way that the waves at my home spot are not usually that good.
RM: There were so many talented surfers who were supposed to be the next big thing and suddenly you never hear about them. Usually drugs got in the way. DH: Yeah, it sucks for the guy who missed out, but maybe a kid will see that’s not the way to go. Kids looking toward a future in pro surfing realize they can’t do whatever they feel like and be the best they can be. It seems a lot of guys at the top are starting to see that also. RM: In hindsight it seems that the harder road is often the better road. DH: I think that’s why you see a lot of athletes turn to the Lord, especially extreme athletes. They realize how close they are to death a lot of times. It’s a short life and you’d better start searching for some answers. It’s not all about indulging yourself in what you want. It’s parallel to what God says. If you take the path of self-indulgence, before you know it you’ll be done. God doesn’t give us his directions because he’s this bad guy who says you can’t do this, you can’t do that. He says those things cuz he loves us and wants the best for us. RM: I once heard someone call you a “sober stoner” cuz you were having a great time at a party without drinking. DH: Yeah, there’s a balance. Sometimes I feel I might take too much liberty in that balance. Sometimes I blow it, I’ll go out and . . . I’ll have a beer at home once in a while, but I have a couple drinks in a scene where people are struggling with alcohol, it bums me out. It wasn’t the time or the place. I battle with a lot of things, but if I didn’t have God in my life, I wonder how much darker life would be. RM: As a pro surfer, your decisions touch a lot of people. Is that a lot of pressure? DH: I love pressure and feel the more you can handle, the more the Lord will give you. Sometimes I think, “Gosh Lord, how many people did I lead astray by what I just did?” Fortunately Jesus paid the ultimate price and he forgets it. RM: Surfers always think they want endless perfect surf. Pro surfers get that more than anyone. Is it fulfilling?
RM: I wanted to ask you about the time you got punched in Hawaii. DH: This guy was videoing, and I asked him not to. There were people in the room getting heated. I was thinking that someone could make a mistake and be bummed that it was on video, so I asked the guy not to video. I said the wrong thing at the wrong time. I’m a pretty small guy and I think he focused all his anger toward me. I went home that night and stayed up late, asking the Lord if I was in the wrong. The next morning I was watching TV and the Lord said, “The guy’s right outside, get off the couch and talk to him.” Half of me was thinking, the guy’s probably not going to be there, but I walked out and he was standing on the path, looking straight at me. I smiled and thought, “OK Lord, what next?” I walked up and he smacked me. Obviously the Lord was there, cuz it was kind of crazy how calm I was. He started explaining himself and we were able to talk and he told me what was really going on in his life, the things he was struggling with. I prayed with him and walked away. I haven’t seen him since, but I would love to see him again. I feel bad telling the story because he was really sorry and said he felt like an idiot. I told him, “I’m not even going to remember this.” I had to forgive him. How many times has the Lord done that for me? He didn’t know, but I had the Lord on the other end.
Damien Hobgood continues to compete internationally as a professional surfer. For this story, he was photographed with his child and wife, Charlotte. JAN/FEB 2008 - Feature 39
Risen Magazine: Your first two albums earned rave reviews, but almost every one of them compares you to Prince, Curtis Mayfield or Sly Stone. Is that the risk of openly acknowledging your influences? Van Hunt: I don’t think people are wrong that there are elements in what I do that are similar to those artists. Particularly to me, with Prince and Sly—those albums were the soundtrack to my teenage years, my formative years. So they are big, heavy influences on everything that I do musically. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that I haven’t sold as many records! [Laughter] RM: At some point, though, I imagine you want to be recognized for who you are. VH: I believe less and less each day I’m on this planet that there really is a “who I am.” I feel like there’s music that comes from me that I’ve never heard, but I’m not convinced I can make music that’s never been done before. And I’m comfortable in that creative space. What I’ve liked about writing songs up to this point is being able to say something lyrically, musically, melodically, and put an arrangement underneath it. Nothing has satisfied me like that until recently when I
discovered writing short stories. When I started developing characters and using nuances—that gave me the same feeling. RM: What kinds of stories are you writing? VH: I had to start with something I knew, so I started writing about my life from like eight to 11. I make the correlation between my childhood and my adult life. RM: You grew up around your father’s rather bohemian lifestyle. [He worked as a pimp at one time.] How did those experiences affect you as an artist? VH: It doesn’t take more than one or two of those kinds of experiences to paint your whole childhood. My whole childhood wasn’t bad. I was raised by my mama who was definitely a disciplinarian. My father worked lots of jobs, just trying to hustle and pay the bills, and those experiences—although there were just a few of them—were the biggest ones. I just want to make that disclaimer. But I guess the one thing I took away from it is that everybody dumps on people and sometimes you get disappointed. I had to learn to pay attention and know when to confront people. JAN/FEB 2008 - Feature 41
RM: You have a five-year-old son. Are there things you took from your childhood that you apply to parenting? VH: I have acquired the disciplinary skills my mother has. As far as my father, I don’t struggle with the same things he did. But I wouldn’t think twice about taking my son to do the things I do, maybe it’s walking into a book store and going straight to the philosophical section. That might look odd to other people, but my father was like that. RM: Church is often associated with soul music. Was it part of your upbringing? VH: Sure. I spent a lot of time in church and singing in choir. I only joined the choir because I saw them singing and this girl came out and my mom said, “She’s in the choir.” And I said, “Where do I sign up?”
RM: Is religion a part of your life now? VH: Only as a subject of scrutiny. I love to talk about religion and its effect on the community and why people feel compelled to practice. I just find it curious that people have found so many reasons for their success and failures except themselves. Religion as a business, if I could call it, is genius. To blame your successes and failures on whether you go to church regularly, it’s a great business model. RM: One of the themes on your previous records is the desire to be accepted. Is it fair to say the same about the new record, which you titled Popular? VH: Not as much. This record, to me, has more angst to it. That song [“Popular”] actually is about 10 years old, so I did write it at the same time as my first record. It never fit on the other records, but with this one it did and I just decided to slap that title on there. Eventually I started writing a whole concept around it. I even wrote a song about a guy who mutilated himself to be accepted by his adoring fans. But we kept that one off. RM: “Turn My TV On” is based on an experience you had as a father. Can you explain? VH: I wrote it around the time my son was about three. He would watch too much television. And he would remember everything. He would say, “Daddy, I can’t do that at 3:30, Dora’s coming on at 3:30.” So I turned off the television one day and we were sitting on the couch and I was trying to play him a song. And he just kept saying, “Turn my TV on, turn my TV on.” And I thought, “I like that.” RM: Coincidently, you shut yourself off from TV while making this record. VH: Television and radio. I needed to take a mind dump. I don’t know if it helped or not. I know just getting in my car and driving is like taking a trip to the Northern Lights. RM: Is that what “N The Southern Shade” is about, just escaping it all? VH: Man, I thought [2006’s] On the Jungle Floor was a great record, even though it was a battle to get it done. I was always back and forth with my label. They wouldn’t let me produce it myself. Then when it was finished, everyone said what a great record it was. But they didn’t seem to really push it or promote it or tell everyone in the world that it was a great record. So we were out touring every night and dealing 42 :RISEN MAGAZINE
with the band’s needs and desires and just hoping 400 people would show up so I can get paid and pay them. I just got tired of that grind and after six months I called off the tour and went back to Atlanta and just sat on my porch. So I came up with a concept about a guy who is retired from the business and decides he’s going to start pimping. He’s got one girl and he gets up whenever he wants to. He goes to see her but he doesn’t worry about the money. He’s just a retired singer in the southern shade. RM: How difficult is it to find confidence as a musician in today’s environment? VH: I like the fight. It’s just funny to watch people who, because they give the money to make records, think they can tell me what to do.
They really think they can get me to change my mind, but I’ve never compromised anything. They say, “Don’t you want to be rich and famous?” Of course, but not more than I want to make records. I love what I do. I’m having a great time. I just don’t like touring. I think I’m good at it, but I don’t enjoy it. RM: What’s the dumbest idea a record executive suggested to you? VH: Well, along with the many, many, many, many, many hip-hop associations they’ve wanted me to make . . . man, I don’t even know. I did have a label president come into the studio one night to hear a song I’d been working on all day and he turned to his girlfriend and said, “What do you think?” That didn’t turn out too well. That wound up being the night a few pictures got smashed in the hallway. RM: Who are your heroes? VH: Malcolm X. Just because I admire his integrity. I don’t know. That’s about it. RM: You’ve studied a lot of philosophy. What’s the philosophy you live by? VH: I do what I want to do, that’s my philosophy. I hate to say this, but I’ve realized that the only things I care about are me and my art and my son. And I’m comfortable with that. I’m close to my mother and father and siblings, but every other relationship is about positioning, strategy, sex, business. All of those relationships have helped me with my career, but none of them are relationships I have to have. I don’t like saying it because I don’t want my son to hear it and overanalyze his entire life. I’m 37, a grown man who is perfectly comfortable where he sits. All of the other relationships I still nurture, but those are the things I have to have. It’s really about love, my son, and my creations. RM: Love, that’s pretty broad. VH: Yes it is. I can’t put that one in detail just yet. RM: Randy Jackson is your manager. Do you ever hit him up for American Idol tickets? VH: No. [Laughs] I never talk to him about that. I often wonder how he feels being in that arena juxtaposed with where he came from, as a working, touring musician. He probably wouldn’t answer me. Van Hunt’s Popular will be released January 15.
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Risen Magazine: You sing a lot about your upbringing. Natalie Walker: Well, I was born in a tiny little town called Shelbyville, Indiana. Then we moved to Indianapolis when I was three. I went to school in Avon, Indiana. Very straight-and-narrow people lived there . . . people who lived in a bubble. RM: Would you say you lived a sheltered life? NW: Absolutely. I was raised in a born-again Christian family. My parents were both devout Christians—very evangelical. I had to go to church every Sunday and went to Christian school until high school. I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t know a different way of life, except living your life day-to-day in fear, basically of going to hell, and trying to be like Jesus. I had a great childhood. My parents were both wonderful parents; there was just this extreme level there in the way I was raised with that mind-set.
singing. A lot of things made me happy, but singing was the only thing that made me feel like I had some self-worth. When I started talking was when I started singing. I kept it a secret from my family, though. It was such a personal, wonderful thing that I could experience. RM: Why did you keep your singing a secret? NW: I was painfully shy. I was the ugly duckling of my class. I was such a nerd. My mom—I probably shouldn’t tell you this—but she permed my bangs and all the kids made fun of me. I was very quirky and very sheltered—just super-goofy and awkward. And I got a lot of hell for it.
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RM: What’s your relationship now with your parents? NW: It’s great. They don’t understand my side of things because they are still in Indiana living the same life they were living when I was there. When I moved away I was going out of the bubble where everyone is like-minded. I discovered I had freedom to live my life and not feel guilty about it—and just be happy, genuinely happy for the first time ever without being afraid of something. My parents are cool—we have our moments, but they are cool. I try to avoid talking to them about it because they get offended and they feel I’m disrespecting them, but I’m not, I’m just very opinionated.
RM: Do they listen to your music? NW: They do. I’m very sensitive about the things I write about. I’m pretty tactful about political views. I do sing about it—but very tactfully. Nothing’s ever outwardly disrespectful. Even though I’m not a Christian anymore, it’s still part of who I am. I still respect the people I grew up around and the friends I went to Christian school with who still hold those strong beliefs. You have to keep that level of respect. RM: Why do you think Christianity didn’t work for you? NW: Uhmm. I feel like it’s a lot of suppression. It’s something that doesn’t seem realistic to me. I don’t know. I’m a person who thrives on living my life day-to-day, trusting that I have a conscience that can keep me from bad decisions without having to look to a book that was written over thousands of years by hundreds of people with differing opinions seeking control in society. I just don’t buy it. I’m not saying it’s all bull, but I don’t think it’s something to be taken literally. A lot of it is common sense and common knowledge. Don’t murder someone. OK, well someone who doesn’t call themselves a bornagain Christian knows that it’s not right to go murder someone. RM: What is your fondest childhood memory? NW: In my room by myself, singing, every day. I was obsessed with 46 :RISEN MAGAZINE
RM: Did other kids bully you? NW: Yes. So I was terrified to open myself up. RM: Not even to your parents? NW: Nope. But my parents were totally supportive when they found out. It was this huge revelation. “Oh my God, Natalie can totally sing. She has a real talent.” It was really special. But I didn’t know how to take the compliment. I still don’t. RM: Do you write all of your lyrics? NW: I write all of my lyrics.
RM: Who inspires you? NW: Ani DiFranco. She is one of the bravest women on earth. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She gets up on stage and rocks it out. My biggest weakness is that I am not brave. I get up on stage and my head starts going and I start wiggin’ out about something stupid. It’s hard for me to find that headspace between the music and me and to just enjoy it. I’m too technical and I’m very hard on myself. I was obsessed with Mariah Carey when I was really young. Music Box was my vocal training for three years. My mom bought it for my brother, I don’t know why . . . RM: That’s an odd gift from a religious mom . . . [Laughter] NW: I think she was trying to get him a “hip” gift or something. But I heard him listening to it in his room and I stole it from him. Her vocal range amazed me. I made it a point to learn every note from that CD.
RM: In your first single from Urban Angel, you write, “I will rise from my sorrow.” How do you rise from sorrow? NW: To put that into context, that song is about young, naïve love. It’s something that I’m past in my life right now. I’m in a four-year relationship. I have a three-year-old daughter. I’m done with that. But I remember times of being lonely and feeling like I couldn’t go on. Everything is dramatic when you’re young and you have a breakup with your first love. It’s so excruciating and painful and you have a hard time imagining things will get better. “I will rise from my sorrow” is about me getting in a comfortable place with myself and not having a boyfriend to validate who I am. It’s about being happy alone, in my solitude. “It’s my solitude I will embrace.” That’s what it’s about.
RM: In 10 years where do you hope to be? NW: Comfortable. Still making music that stays true to who I am, with a nice group of people on the planet that appreciate and get what I’m doing. I’m not looking to have a private jet and be a millionaire. That’s not what I’m doing it for. I just want to do what I love and have people appreciate it and hopefully change somebody’s day with one song. That’s what I’m all about. RM: Do you think music can change somebody’s life? NW: When I was younger, I would play a CD driving home from high school and one song would change my entire day. That’s the power of music. I’ve seen the way that one song could impact someone’s life. There’s power within the music and within the song. RM: Has your heart ever been broken? NW: Yeah, with relationships. But this CD is very optimistic compared to my last CD, with Daughter Darling, which was very dark. Urban Angel is beautiful. The first song talks about how much I adore being in the city. I love New York. I love Philly. I love being around people and in that environment. It’s about love and happiness. The first touch, the first kiss. I’m in a much different place than I was with Daughter Darling and I’m in a very happy place. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t still write about those sad times.
RM: Rejection of your music? NW: Yeah, of my music. I’m human. If I get a negative review, my stomach drops. Although I have my family and people who believe in me, it doesn’t make the rejection easier to deal with. That’s totally my biggest fear. And hatred—like people who are outwardly hateful or jealous. It totally freaks me out. It’s scary. RM: Do you have any tattoos? NW: Yeah, I have one on my arm that means “dream.” I got it before I moved to Philly to pursue my career. It’s really special. It’s funny you asked me that, because I was talking to my band today, saying I want to get more tattoos.
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RM: What were those sad times? NW: I had a rough time adjusting to changes with motherhood. When you become a mom you put a stop to everything else and you have to focus on taking care of your child. That was difficult for me. I didn’t sing for two years. We were living with my boyfriend’s parents. I couldn’t just sit down and write a song. That was very frustrating for me.
RM: Do you just want more tattoos? Or is there one in particular you want? NW: I just think it’s a cool way of expression. I’m totally supportive of it. I love it when I see people with ink all over them. I would never be a person with a sleeve, or tons of ink, but I think it’s ridiculous that people are judged for having it.
RM: If you could do anything besides be a singer, what would that be? NW: I would be a chef. If this doesn’t work out, I will go to culinary arts school and be a chef. Not a restaurant chef, but a personal chef for fancy parties. I’m really into cooking. I cook gourmet meals every night for my family. So they are missing out right now. RM: Is there something about yourself that you would want the world to know? NW: [Long pause] I’ve always been stereotyped as this reserved, naïve girl. But I’m totally goofy. I’m always doing something silly with my band or my kid. I’m the queen of saying stupid stuff. I’m afraid it might get me into trouble someday.
RM: When your daughter comes to you with a broken heart, what would your advice be? NW: I think the most important thing will be to listen to her and to assure her that it’s not the end of the world. You have your entire life to live. In your twenties you change so much. I’m not even close to the person I was when I was 18. I want to get her excited for that time in her life, so when she’s eighteen and her boyfriend breaks up with her she’ll know it’s not the end of the world. RM: What’s your greatest accomplishment? NW: Jumping back into a music career after two years without having sung a note, not even knowing if I could sing anymore. I would never forgive myself if I didn’t give my music career another shot. RM: What’s your greatest fear? NW: Rejection.
Natalie Walker continues to tour the U.S. You can listen to her at www.Natalie-Walker.com. JAN/FEB 2008 - Feature 49
Deryck Whibley (right) joined by bandmates Jason McCaslin (left) and Steve Jocz (center)
RISEN Magazine: Describe your typical day. Deryck Whibley: Well it kinda depends on what’s going on. I’m just taking it day by day, playing shows and doing interviews and stuff like that. The first half of the year that we had off from making the record, I was waking up every day and writing music. A typical day for me is a lot of work. RM: You grew up in Canada. What was your childhood like? DW: It was great. I guess I had kind of a weird childhood. I moved around a lot. I don’t remember living in one house for more than a year and a half. I have no brothers and sisters, so it’s just me and my mom. Growing up we were really, really close. I loved it and Canada was a cool place to grow up. I don’t live there now. It’s a little cold I guess. RM: Sounds like you are very close to your mom. Was she always supportive of your musical ambitions? DW: She was totally supportive. The one thing that was hard, though, was that she dropped out of school to have me when she was in tenth grade.
When I was around seven she went back to try and finish school, so she was going to work in the day and school all night and trying to raise me. It was just the two of us, so it was really hard for her. When I was 15 years old I told her, “I wanna be a rock star when I grow up.” I don’t think she really understood. She was like, “That’s not real. I’m supportive of your music and love your music,” because she was the one who got me into music, but I think she was really scared that I would be a struggling musician my entire life or something. RM: Sum 41 traveled to Congo for the charity War Child Canada a couple of years ago. What motivated that trip? DW: We took a break to make our third record, Chuck, and we had been talking about wanting to do something with a charity for a long time. We were trying to figure out the right thing to do, because in this kind of business you’re working so much. You work all the time to really only benefit yourself and we thought, Let’s do something to help somebody else. It took us a while to figure out what kind of charity we’d want to work with, and we picked War Child because we felt it was the cause we most believed in. JAN/FEB 2008 - Feature 51
What they do is rebuild war-torn countries and help women and children. It’s based in Toronto, so we went there and started talking to them for about six months to figure out what we could do. All these ideas were coming up like doing a benefit concert or doing a benefit CD, but we were like, “That’s what everyone does. Let’s do something more hands-on that doesn’t have anything to do with music. Let’s just go as four people, instead of four guys in a band.” We decided to do a documentary on the civil war that has been going on in Congo. It’s such a brutal war that nobody knew about. We went there and about
the very bottom with all these odds in front of us and all this doubt. Everyone doubted that we would even be able make another record, and if we did it would suck because of all the things that had happened to us. Underclass Hero represents being at the bottom and prevailing through everything in front of you and coming through with the best thing you’ve ever done.
10 days into our trip—after a year of ceasefire—the war starts up again all of a sudden and our hotel is caught in the crossfire between two rebel groups. We had to be evacuated, but were stuck in there for like two days or something like that. It got so bad that the UN had to come in with armored tanks and get us out of there.
DW: We’re not just fans of punk rock or metal. We like all sorts of music, so working with Iggy Pop was really fun. It was a really weird experience that came out of nowhere. I remember being on tour in England and getting a call from our manager saying, “Iggy Pop wants to write a song with you.” I was terrified. I had never written with anybody else before. I ended up calling him and we talked for an hour or two. We got along right away, recorded the song, and then it became the first single from the record. We shot a video for it and then we started playing the song on The Late Show with David Letterman and stuff like that. Iggy received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Grammy committee.
RM: How did the experience change your perspective? DW: It wasn’t as if it was an eye-opener. We’ve known that kind of stuff has been happening for so long, which is why we wanted to try to help and do something. It didn’t change my view of anything. You grow up and you realize how awful war is, but now that I’ve been in the middle of it, it made me against war even more in a way. RM: Is there anything you think others can do to help the cause in Congo? DW: Go to www.WarChild.ca. After our trip a lot more donations were made and a lot more volunteers joined the cause. There are ways to help and it’s all through www.WarChild.ca. RM: Can you describe the new album and significance of the title Underclass Hero? DW: This record was really hard to make because at the beginning we weren’t even sure if we were going to make another record at all. When we ended our last tour I personally thought this might be it. I really didn’t see the purpose in doing another record. I was very uninterested and just wanted to do something different. So we were really at the bottom. I guess you could call it a low point for the band and I was trying to decide what I wanted to do next. We said there was a possibility of making a record, but we can’t make a record like we’ve done before. It has to be the most meaningful, most artistic, most important and most relevant body of work that we’ve ever done or there’s no point. We don’t want just a collection of 12 songs. It has to be a record that has relevancy from the first song to the last song. When we really started talking about it, I actually got really excited about this new record. We agreed to work harder and longer on just music and take the craft of music more seriously than we ever have before. That’s why our guitar player quit. We fired so many people. Our producer was gone. Our manager was gone. It was just the three of us. It was like we were starting at 52 :RISEN MAGAZINE
RM: You’ve collaborated with people from a lot of different styles of music. What was it like working with Iggy Pop?
RM: If you weren’t a musician, what would you like to do? DW: Before I got into music I really thought I was going to be in the NBA. Playing basketball was my life until I was around 14 or 15 when I switched over to music. RM: Where do you see yourself in 10,000 years? DW: I don’t even look much past a week or two, so I don’t really know. So, even to say what I’ll be doing in six months, I have no idea. RM: What brings you the greatest happiness in life? DW: Life. I’ve been lucky enough to live a certain life that I couldn’t be happier about. RM: If your house was on fire and you could only grab one thing, what would it be? DW: My wife. RM: Good answer. What song would you want to be played at your funeral? DW: That’s so funny, when I was 13 or 14 I remember leaving a note saying that if somebody kills me or if I die, I want “Don’t Cry” by Guns n’ Roses to be played at my funeral. That’s the last time I remember ever thinking of a song to be played at my funeral.
Sum 41’s new album, Underclass Hero, is available in stores and online.
sense in speaking with Taking Back Sunday’s bass guitarist, Matt Rubano, that he has a certain dissatisfaction—call it a longing, rarely admitted to in these, the days of smiley-face philosophers and bumper-sticker cures for the blues. And it may be that longing, that sense that life can be better, that leads him to want to create something timeless. I’m not sure about that, but I do know that Rubano has more to talk about than cute shoes and fun cars. He takes risks, both in his music and in his life beyond the band. I like that. Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine. Writer: Chris Ahrens Photographer: Tyler Shields
Risen Magazine: How do you feel about the music on your latest CD? Matt Rubano: This was the record that we were the most focused on and spent the most time writing. We were clear on what we wanted it to sound like, as opposed to the previous albums that we love as well, but we had a lot less time together as a band at that point. RM: Do you go into a studio session with the feeling of accomplishing something beyond entertainment? MR: The main motivation is always good, solid songwriting. This time around it was a combination of that and wanting to make a timeless rock record, something that wasn’t immediately going to sound like last year’s music. And that’s kind of an intangible thing. It’s sort of a goal you keep in mind while you’re writing and then you just open the doors creatively and things just happen. We feel that we accomplished it with the help and guidance and sonic wizardry of [producer] Eric Valentine. When we chose to make the record with him, it was a no-brainer. He was on the same page as us. He’s really laid back, super intelligent and cool. He was the perfect sixth member of the band for a while. Of our three records so far, this was the most goal-oriented and focused. As we go on we’ll always want to redefine what it means to sound like Taking Back Sunday. RM: Is there a lot of resistance to trying something timeless? I mean, most people are more comfortable with trendy. Did you have any resistance in that way? MR: I agree with what you’re saying; I think scenes and trends, style and hip and all that . . . There’s definitely a constant flux of bands you
can’t escape for three months and then you never hear from them again. I don’t know if that’s the media’s fault or the industry’s fault or the band’s fault. Did they ever have anything real going on? We never considered ourselves quote–unquote hip. I think hip implies this fashionista, underground . . . With those people we’re almost one of their guilty pleasures. When you get to the creative side of an album, you just go blank and let things come. It’s not like that was a conversation we [the band] had over and over again. RM: The word “hip” has been loosely defined as conformity to the counterculture rather than the main culture. So really hip is just another type of conformity. MR: Yeah, I agree. It’s not acknowledging the hierarchy that’s out there and setting up your own, so you can sit on top of the mountain rather than somebody else. Even for bands that fall into that sort of thing it must be frustrating, because their songwriting doesn’t get acknowledged over time. RM: It reminds me of the movie Amadeus where Salieri becomes the patron saint of mediocrity, bound for obscurity after being celebrated during his early years. MR: Exactly. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to sound bitter or on the other side of the fence. I really look at music in a very broad way. I’m a fan of some of those bands that come and go. There are bands that you hear about and then it’s just over. There is a culture out there interested in having the word on the next thing. As soon as someone does a car commercial or Late Night with Conan O’Brien, that group needs something that belongs to them again.
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RM: I remember as a young boy that Sunday was a day when shops were closed and people stayed close to home. Does the name “Taking Back Sunday” have anything to do with that? MR: To be honest, when faced with this question different members of our band respond differently. I’ve heard it as simple as it having been a lyric in a band called The Waiting Process. Then I’ve heard that it does sort of reflect the sentiment that you were thinking of. So, yeah, the explanation depends on who you ask and what day. I’ve always thought, “What does a band’s name mean to the band and
one of us equally knowledgeable on it? Absolutely not. Some bands come across like they’re of like mind on everything. We’re not that way, but we have paper, plastic, and metal recycling everywhere on tour. Initially we were going to plant trees to offset our emissions, but instead we’re going to set up a wind turbine, I think in South Dakota on an Indian reservation. It’s basically exploring the space where you can accomplish other things while being a rock band. I never thought it was the responsibility of artists to lead the way, but in the ’60s, and jazz and bebop artists before them, they did lead the way in doing
how does it sound?” There’s this hard to define poetry to naming your band. Do people like saying the name? Does it roll off the tongue? It’s a sort of subconscious thing. Some bands have names that are this mouthful of crap. I’ve been in a band where we had this really challenging, hard to spell, hard to pronounce name. You can be too smart in naming your band.
what’s right. Not to point the finger, but I think there’s a huge gap in the presence of the art and music community of today. Where did the boldness of the ’60s go? But rock singers are not always the best people to tell people what’s going on out there.
RM: My favorite name for a failed band is the Charging Tyrannosaurus of Despair. MR: Yeah, see, that works, man. People are going to want to abbreviate that, make acronyms out of it. The band names that appealed to me when I was younger were like Jane’s Addiction, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone . . . bands like that, where there’s this bizarre imagery associated with the name, or you go, “They’re called what?” RM: One of the things I like about the name “Taking Back Sunday” is that the “Taking Back” part sounds kind of militant and “Sunday” sounds so sweet. MR: [Laughs] Yeah, it sort of has this insistence of being mellow. [Laughs] It’s a curveball, man. RM: Where does creativity come from for you? MR: For each of us it’s different—a combination of your influences and a whole lot of daydreaming, that sort of quest for satisfaction as an artist. A lot of times for me it’s been sort of reacting to what the other guys in the band were doing. There was a time when our process was five guys in a room, sort of slugging it out. I don’t really prefer that process, but I know that at times it motivated me to come up with something. That’s one of those questions where in a hundred years scientists might be able to figure out where creativity comes from. RM: I used to watch these Beatles interviews. One would answer and it seemed they all thought the same or that the other three of them had no opinion on that subject. Do journalists treat you guys as if you have a communal mind? MR: Like an all for one, one for all sort of thing? RM: Yeah, like I noticed there’s something on global warming on your Web site; is that something you’re all into at the same time? MR: Yeah, that’s something that came to [producer] Fred [Mascherino], I believe, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth. We wanted to do something in our touring and in our everyday lives, so we ourselves weren’t contributing negatively to the environment. Is every 56 :RISEN MAGAZINE
RM: I don’t think rock ’n’ roll is any good unless it has an element of danger to it. MR: Yeah, sure, be it Jim Morrison, or John and Yoko in bed for a week and a half. All these things have been replaced with this fascination on what they’re driving or wearing. Who cares? What could be less interesting than what kind of car Kid Rock is driving? If that ever becomes what is most important to me, light me on fire. Let me go. RM: Is being on tour more like a family or being in the military? MR: I would say it’s like the military, even though I don’t have anything to compare it to. We breathe the same air; I’ve seen these guys have kids. We go through sad times and monumental life moments. I would liken it to having brothers; having brothers and being in the army with them. [Laughs] RM: What do you read for fun? MR: I like the teachings of Krishnamerti. I just finished reading Sam Harris’s The End of Faith. I started this book last night called Affluenza, about the adverse effects of over-consumption. People go through cell phones and televisions and video games annually, but those items don’t go into the ground and grow new ones. One of the chapters is “The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things.” People seem to have four times the amount of crap they need to get by. RM: Is there any reason that you would go to war? MR: I generally believe that nationalism is a foolish idea. On the other hand I really like the freedoms and the things afforded to me by living in America. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a communistic regime or in a place where buses are exploding all the time. But I personally don’t believe those freedoms are protected by going to war. As a defensive measure of my own immediate security, which would probably mean it was too late, I would take up arms. RM: Where do you see yourself in 10,000 years? MR: [Laughs] In 10,000 years, assuming that I have any physical integrity . . . If we reach that point where I still am a sentient being, then playing bass with Stevie Wonder; that sounds like fun. Taking Back Sunday’s latest album, Louder Now, is available in record stores or online.
Writers: Chris Ahrens and Owen Leimbach Photos: Estevan Oriol
“Turn right here,” Mr. Estevan says, directing the driver of his newly purchased 1962 Lincoln Continental into one of L.A.’s burned out backstreets, where the old heart of the city can be traced by following its veins, the streetcar tracks, which once pumped blood in and out of a thriving downtown. Here, too, is where Estevan intends to photograph his subject, Academy Award winner Adrien Brody. Adrien steps out onto the pavement and click, click, click, in under an hour, the shoot is complete, cover and center spread accomplished, using one or two lenses, no lights, no assistant. Since that day, We’ve done several shoots with Estevan. It’s always been the same—several rolls of film shot on one camera at a thoughtful yet rapid pace. I’ve been within feet of him as he works and I’ve observed how he lets his subjects breathe, offering them the rare opportunity of being themselves. Maybe that’s why Estevan’s subjects look like they want to speak to you from the mute stillness of a photograph. In an industry dependent upon airbrushed beauty and armies of makeup artists, the screen image sometimes fades as something far more intriguing emerges. Seeking to “capture the person at their most beautiful,” Estevan accomplishes this without trickery. His subjects are generally shown in natural light, comfortably standing alone and without props, rather than being pounded by harsh studio lights and buried beneath tons of makeup. It’s the same with actors ranging from his friend Danny Trejo to his latest superstar subject, Dennis Hopper, both of whom have benefited from the self-taught street wisdom of a master who looks deep, capturing their essences better than most anyone else. Estevan has shot several covers for RISEN as well as features and covers for Rolling Stone, The Source, The Fader, and other national magazines. When mags want it real, they call Estevan. Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine.
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JAN/FEB 2008 - Department 59
dept:Expressions RISEN Magazine: Where are we going right now? Estevan Oriol: Wolfgang Puck’s. It’s fine Italian cuisine made by Wolfgang Puck. They got some healthy food, you know. It’s like a higher-end chain restaurant. We go there because we get sick of eating everywhere around here. Now, down here in the middle of all the buildings is where they have all the arty-farty restaurants. RM: How do you feel about it getting that way down here in your area? EO: I don’t like it but what can I do? I don’t have millions of dollars to buy up these buildings and preserve them. If I could afford to buy them and preserve them, I would. What makes me sick about people in L.A. is that they don’t care about the icons of L.A.—the old buildings. They just want to rip them down and put new stuff up. It just ruins the whole look of our city. Like this car wash right here. This is out of the ’70s like that
movie Car Wash, you know? But now they went out of business and somebody will come in and buy it and make something else out of it. They’ll make a lot of money for everybody and that’s great, but to me those kinda car washes are iconic symbols of L.A. You don’t see that stuff everywhere. I get kinda bummed out driving through L.A. when I see all of these new buildings going up and cranes. We’re already pretty packed here. What are they going to do, just keep bringing in more and more people? What can you do, man? Go with the flow. RM: Are you going to stay down here forever? What would make you leave? EO: I don’t think it will get to the point in my lifetime where it will become that sickening. But it’s already moving that way. We’re down here in Skid Row and there are these lofts right around the corner and some of them were going for four million. So you’ve got a situation where this guy spent all this money and he doesn’t want to hear someone’s stereo. How can you move to Skid Row and complain about the noise when you’ve got rats the size of possums running around and there are drug addicts everywhere? RM: Have you taken a picture on every block down here? EO: Just the good ones. There’s some that don’t look good in pictures because they’ve messed them up already. I like the oldschool-looking buildings. I like the rough, raw-looking stuff. Most of it is just too polished. If I was doing a picture with a bunch of suits—all stiffed-out—if I had a flash on in the daytime like everybody else does, then I would just do it up with those new buildings. RM: What’s the most “L.A.” block in the city? EO: There’s Vernon and 46th, which is a street just full of palm trees 60 :RISEN MAGAZINE
with all of those two- or three-bedroom family houses. It’s real hood right there. There’s San Julian, a.k.a. Skid Row, that’s real sick with it. There’s Whittier Boulevard in East L.A., or Broadway right here in downtown. Broadway’s a crazy street, there’s so much history there. There are so many streets that represent different parts of L.A. But I would say for one street to represent the whole city I would probably say Sunset Boulevard. Because that takes you from Gladstone’s where the turf meets the surf, you got the restaurant there with all the seagulls. And you keep taking it east until you get East L.A., in the hood. It will take you about 45 minutes to an hour, but it’s dope. You go from around Malibu beach, through Beverly Hills, through Hollywood, through East Hollywood into downtown, then to East L.A. That’s it. That’s L.A. right there. RM: Have you ever worked in a restaurant? EO: I’ve had almost every kind of job you could have. I’ve done every kind of manual labor. I’ve worked every job there is in a restaurant,
from busboy to waiter, to cook—everything. I worked construction, from the runt all the way up to right under the boss. I’ve worked in clubs from the DJ to the door. If you were cool you could come in; if you were an idiot you couldn’t. We didn’t need your money. RM: Who is “we?” EO: The people who worked at the club. There was always a door guy, a cashier, the promoters, the dancers, and the bartenders. A drunk idiot affects all of those people along with everybody in the club. They come up to the club and they act disrespectful. RM: How can you spot someone who’s going to be trouble? EO: You can see them. It’s a trip. You can tell exactly who’s going to do it. You can tell the girl and the guy who are going to be the drunken idiots by the end of the night. RM: Do you find that’s generally true outside of clubs too? EO: Yeah, but when people go out to a club they let their guard down a little bit more. If you go into a business meeting, you’re on point. When you’re going out to a club, you’re all loosened up. RM: Every time I see you, you have your guard on. Is that what makes a good doorman at a club? EO: You’ve just got to be relaxed and respectful with everybody. RM: When did you get your first ink? EO: 1986. I got a little black widow. I used to get them on my legs at first to hide them from my mom. My mom didn’t trip on tattoos. I used to get them on my legs so I could take a shower, put my pants on and still roll around with no shirt on. She didn’t notice for the longest time. RM: What did she say when she found out? EO: She got all bummed out. She said, “Ohh, why do you do that?” Because I wanted to.
I grew up with just my mom, but when I was nine she had a surgery and became disabled from it. From that point on, I was always hanging around with older kids and running around in the streets. My mom was laid up in bed. I think about that now that I have four kids. I think about how I used to think when I was in the situations that they are in. RM: You’ve got to get your strategy working. EO: Oh, I’ve got them. I’ve got the camera system [installed in the house]. It’s not like I’m trying to get all up on my kids. I’m doing it for their safety. If they’re doing some scandalous stuff, then they’re being careless. I don’t want that in my home where my other kids are. I want the best for them. My whole life changed when I had kids. RM: From the looks of it, most of the people you’re photographing don’t look too family-friendly. Do you ever have conversations like this with people you shoot?
EO: Most of the people that I shoot from the hood, well, you can have better conversations with them because they’ve been through so much. They’ve gone through someone having their kids taken away, they’ve had people killed in their families, they’ve got friends getting killed, they’ve been in prison, and you get some crazy conversations. When I hang out with normal people who get up every day, go to the gym, go to work, go to a restaurant, have a glass of wine, go home and go to bed—the conversations tend to be a little bit boring. But when you have people who are going through so much struggle, the conversations reflect that. They may not have education, but their life skills are really strong. RM: Do you think they understand family better and the importance of those connections? EO: That’s all they’ve got at that point. RM: I think that one of the strongest themes in your work is family. Not nuclear family, but people who are in it together. JAN/FEB 2008 - Department 63
EO: I like to show the other side. Everybody is so scared of the hood. But if you have respect for the people it’s a different story. I’ve been to ghettos all over the world. I’ve been to the favelas in Brazil, the hoods in China, Cuba, Mexico, all over the States, Jamaica in Trench Town. It’s really hood over there. They’re serious. They’ve got AKs on point. They’re not hiding them. If something jumps off, someone’s going to get a hot one. I go into these places and I don’t have 10 of my homies with me. I’m going in with respect and my camera. It’s their home. They treat me with nothing but love. They let me do some flicks and hang out and I keep it moving. I don’t really think about it till after I leave. I get a rush out of that. If I didn’t have four kids, I’d be in Afghanistan right now taking photos. I just like that. It’s a high to me to be in that kind of mix. RM: You like to be in dangerous situations with a camera instead of a gun? EO: I think it’s better that way. If I had a gun, maybe I wouldn’t be here. But every once in a while I wish I had a gun just to feel safe. RM: What are some of the most important things that you’ll teach your kids? EO: To be careful. There are a lot of scandalous people out there. Be careful who you bring to our house. Be careful how you treat people. You see shows on TV like the Dateline series “To Catch a Predator” 64 :RISEN MAGAZINE
where people are going out trying to have sex with kids. Every week that show is on. Those guys know it’s on and they’re still out there doing it. That makes me worry about my kids. The other day a friend of mine got killed by a drunk driver. A 21-year-old girl came out of the club all drunk, thinking she could drive better and she ran him over on his motorcycle. Took him away from his five kids. He was such a good guy, a good family man, a good friend. With all of the child molesters and scumbags out there, why did this guy have to go? Why didn’t that drunken idiot run into 10 child molesters on the street? Why does it work like that? RM: Does it make you feel like God has taken his hand off the wheel? EO: I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. I used to think about that when people would bring up religion and what it was supposed to be about. If there was a God, then why are there child molesters? You can trip yourself out if you think about that too much. Now, I just try to do my thing, work out the daily projects I’ve got to do, and just keep it short-term. Once I start trippin’ on that sort of stuff, nothing gets done. RM: Do you ever pray? EO: Yeah, I’ve got my own way. To see more of Estevan’s work go to www.EstevanOriol.com.
JAN/FEB 2008 - Department 65
dept:Up to Speed Billy Corgan
Risen Magazine: What makes you you? Billy Corgan: I think, uh, I have a relentless will to learn and grow and at the end of the day I really don’t care what anybody thinks about that part of it. I care about what people think and I am certainly interested in their experience as far as it pertains to me and my art, but if you showed me the truth… Let’s say we were looking at two roads and you said, “At the end of this road there is truth,” and “At the end of this road is not the truth.” You could see that the road that led to truth was difficult, but I would take that road every time. RM: What do you look for in a friend? BC: That they won’t leave; they really won’t leave. I can’t say that about too many people. We all have our issues, you know. If someone could peer into our darkest recess, would they still love us? Like when you hear about somebody killing somebody, and somebody marries them. There’s something that touches me, that somebody cares [so much] about somebody that even the most heinous of things doesn’t drive them away, that they’re still committed to the human being. If I lost it and chopped up somebody with an axe, they’d say, well, I know you’re still a good person, I just lost it and chopped up somebody with an axe. [Chuckles] You know what I mean? I can’t say that I’ve had that in too many people and I don’t know that I’ll ever find it. [Laughter] Up to Speed: He is known for connecting his powerful songwriting skills with music for the Smashing Pumpkins. Now that the band is no longer together, Corgan has used his talent to speak about his life through poetry. In his book, Blinking with Fists, Corgan gathers the issues of love, loss, identity, and loyalty. Driven by the loss of close friend and synthesizer pioneer Bob Moog, Corgan desires to preserve Moog's legacy by helping out with the nonprofit organization, The Bob Moog Foundation run by Moog's daughter, Michelle Moog-Koussa, it continues to make the finest electronic musical instruments. You can find Blinking with Fists at your local Barnes & Noble or Borders or order it online at Amazon.com.
Risen Magazine: What tempts you? Aaron Gillespie: I’m just tempted by life, the same things as anyone else. RM: You hear thousands of people shouting your name. Certainly there’s a temptation to think you’re better than other people. Spencer Chamberlain: That’s everything I stand against. We’re not special or cool. I’m the same dude I was five years ago. How cool am I? That’s ridiculous. Up to Speed: Underoath took off last September with Every Time I Die, Poison the Well, Maylene & The Sons of Disaster, and Advent on the We Believe in Dinotours! tour. Headlining the tour, Underoath encountered a minor problem when drummer/guitarist Aaron Gillespie was rushed to the hospital due to an infection in his finger, just a week into the schedule. His visit to the hospital involved surgery, which disabled him from playing for a week. Although Aaron was unable to play for part of the tour, Underoath replaced him with Kenny Bozich, the drummer for Aaron’s solo project, The Almost. Underoath’s newest CD, Define the Great Line, and The Almost’s CD, Southern Weather, are both now in stores.
Risen Magazine: So often we’ll see a woman performer who’s doing something subtle, and the next thing you know, she’s in lace panties, set up as the next Madonna. They turn the person into a commodity. Women especially seem to get commoditized. KT Tunstall: I think that will always be attempted on female artists. Our impression of beauty in Western culture is, undoubtedly, female. Name me one famous male model. If there is, it's usually a film star or a footballer. It’s completely acceptable for a woman to be acceptable for her looks and nothing else. I think there’s always going to be, from a business point of view, acceptance for that act because of how women look. As a generalization, people don’t really buy magazines for the way men look. The record industry is not only there to sell music, but to sell units, and anything to help. What’s amazing now, the good thing for me is that it’s a perfectly acceptable route to take; to become a musician as a living. To my parents that was the most ridiculous thing ever heard, because you just didn’t do that. The other thing that’s different is the volume of people following that path with whatever reasons drive them. Up to Speed: Scottish singer and songwriter KT Tunstall has received more than she expected over the years. After bursting on the scene with unavoidable hit, Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, she was given a Brit award for best British Female Solo Artist in 2006. Her song “Suddenly I See” was in the movie The Devil Wears Prada. She recently teamed up with NBC and Target to put out the fifth annual “NBC Sounds of the Season” music collection. Taylor Swift and Elliot Yamin also participated on this compilation, released on October 24, 2007. Tunstall’s second album, Drastic Fantastic, was released on September 18, 2007. Sounds of the Season Collection can be found in Target now. Back issues of Risen magazine are available for purchase while supplies last at risenmagazine.com. 66 :RISEN MAGAZINE
JAN/FEB 2008 - Department 66
THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK
The Golden Compass
Finished with their phenomenal Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Line Cinema needed another series with box-office promise. Harry Potter and the Narnia chronicles were already spoken for. So they seized the next-best thing: Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy, His Dark Materials. The first movie, The Golden Compass, is full of dazzling spectacles. Director Chris Weitz conjures awe-inspiring environments and fantastic creatures that recall Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies. And, like Andrew Adamson’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Compass features an engaging young heroine and a big fuzzy fellow who likes to roar. Lyra’s a girl who has been prophesied (of course) to become a young woman of destiny (of course) who will help rebels fight against a wicked empire (of course). Lyra ends up dodging a mysterious woman named Mrs. Coulter, only to discover that children are having their daemons—animal spirit guides—cut away from them. Can she save them? The cast is engaging—especially Sam Elliott as a maverick aeronaut and Nicole Kidman as an icy villain. But compared to Narnia’s Lucy, Compass’s Lyra is off-puttingly shrill. Newcomer Dakota Blue Richards has no sense of wonder in this wonderland, and she escapes trouble so easily, there’s very little suspense. Worse, Compass is too much story for a two-hour time slot. The film feels like a highlight reel from a four-hour version, and it lacks the gravity of the Jackson films. The climactic battle is, well, just another CGI brouhaha ready-made for video games. Weitz tiptoes around Pullman’s mean-spirited caricature of Christianity as a conspiracy of cartoonish villains called “the Magisterium.” But what does it all mean? Pullman’s most endearing character—a polar bear unjustly denied his throne—ends up re-enacting the climax to The Karate Kid. Thus we learn that the strongest will survive. That’s it? Maybe that’s all we’re left with, if we decide there’s no authority higher than our own misguided wills. 68 :RISEN MAGAZINE
We’ve seen a lot of American heroes saunter across the big screen with their pistols blazing. But if you want to be truly inspired by a real-world hero whose camera is more powerful than any firearm, watch The Devil Came on Horseback. Accustomed to carrying weapons, former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle felt rather useless as a patrolman in the African country of Sudan in 2006. All he had was a camera, pointing and shooting while immeasurable violence played out before his eyes. What he witnessed there, no human being should have to see. And yet, Steidle is on a mission to stir the world’s conscience. Documenting bloodshed, he captured essential evidence about what is happening in Sudan. It’s genocide, carried out in broad daylight, while the world does nothing to stop it. We watch as African natives are slaughtered by the Janjaweed barbarians. And we cringe as he learns how the Arab-dominated Sudanese government is funding and supporting these killers. Exposing evidence no one else could seize, he hopes his vivid photographs will inspire us to rise up and demand action. He wants our government to help stop this holocaust before it is too late.
As The Savages begins, we think we’re in for a smart, cynical, sharp-edged comedy a la Alexander Payne. We move into a Sun City, Arizona, neighborhood that looks suspiciously like the suburbia of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. And we brace ourselves for an acidic, acerbic critique of middle—class America. Instead, we’re pleasantly surprised by a nuanced, compassionate portrait of a brother-sister relationship. Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman turn in what may be the finest performances
dept:Screen of their careers. Even better, the film features a respectful portrayal of nursing-home professionals — caring attendants who shepherd the elderly through messy, difficult situations with dignity. As disagreeable siblings, Linney and Hoffman find remarkable chemistry. Wendy (Linney) is involved in a foolish affair with a married man (Peter Friedman), desperate for love in her lonely, cubicle-bound existence. Jon (Hoffman) is a professor facing a burdensome book deadline. For both of them, the alarming decline of their father’s mental health—and the challenge of moving him into a nursing home—is inconvenient and maddening. But their endeavors to help their father ultimately bring healing to the whole family. Perhaps the fact that both characters are struggling writers suggests there is something autobiographical in writer/director Tamara Jenkins’s funny, unpredictable script. No review of this film would be complete without praise for a veteran of stage and screen: Philip Bosco. He gives a bold and endearing turn as a man losing his grip on his senses. The Savages challenges those of us who have yet to navigate such emotionally turbulent waters as these. Will we have the compassion and the courage to shoulder such burdens with grace?
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Don’t get too attached to any of the characters in No Country for Old Men. This grim, bloody film by the Coen Brothers is based on the story by Cormac McCarthy. And McCarthy’s readers have learned to expect that things will go badly for decent folks, while the wicked wreak havoc and escape justice. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is pursuing a hitman called Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) as he leaves a trail of dead bodies through Texas. Chigurh’s on a mission to catch the idiot named Moss (Josh Brolin) who stole $2 million from the scene of a drug deal gone bad. Chigurh’s client, realizing that he’s unleashed a monster, hires yet another agent (Woody Harrelson) to get the money back. But Moss, dumb as a post, just keeps running and clinging to that briefcase. What began as a slaughter becomes a frantic pursuit that will have you on the edge of your seat, covering your eyes, holding your breath. Bardem’s psychopath will be remembered as one of the great film villains, and Brolin’s performance will make him a big star. But the movie belongs to Tommy Lee Jones. The Coens, meanwhile, enhance McCarthy’s spiritual questions: Where is God when wicked men flourish?
Knocked Up, Waitress, Bella—it’s the Year of the Unexpected Pregnancy. And now, here comes Jason Reitman’s Juno, a comedy about a high-school girl whose sexual experimentation has left her pregnant and confused. What’s going on? Is Juno just another movie in this unlikely trend? Not hardly. Juno is a charming, hilarious, personality-packed picture based on a screenplay by professional stripper-turnedscreenwriter Diablo Cody. Fueled by a knockout lead performance by Ellen Page, and a cast of strong personalities, it’s this year’s “Little Movie That Could.” Juno’s got problems, and she knows it. She’s not sure how she feels about the father of her baby—a softspoken track star named Paulie (Michael Cera). Her conscience is wide awake, so abortion isn’t an option. (She can’t live with the idea of killing anything that has already grown fingernails.) So she’s searching for an ideal family to adopt her little “sea monkey.” She finds Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner, perfectly cast), who seem cool enough. And so, as the countdown to delivery day begins, we watch Juno wrestle with the realities of being huge, scorned, and committed to surrendering her baby. We watch her family cope with her pregnancy and learn to support her. And we watch the Lorings’ relationship tested as reality hits home. This all sounds pretty heavy. Fortunately, Page’s feisty line delivery and hipster cool are irresistible, while Cody’s smart dialogue makes every scene seem fresh and unpredictable. But there’s a saddening contradiction here. We feel Juno’s pain as she laments a world in which families can’t manage to stay together. And yet, the film seems awfully quick to let grownups off the hook for giving up on each other. Is the idea of true love just childish and naive? What gives? Jeffrey Overstreet’s critically acclaimed new book about his adventures in moviegoing, Through a Screen Darkly, is now available in bookstores and online. Beyond Risen, Jeffrey writes about film, music, and faith at LookingCloser.org and ChristianityTodayMovies.com. He works at Seattle Pacific University. JAN/FEB 2008 - Department 69
Artist: Radiohead Album: In Rainbows Label: Self-released
To judge from the early returns, Rock-Crit Nation has found it as tempting to contemplate the tectonic-plate-shifting dynamics of how Radiohead’s seventh full-length was released (Stunt? Statement?) as it has analyzing the what of In Rainbows’s content. So let’s suspend discussion of the industry dynamics and instead concentrate on the music, which has been labeled everything from a clue-riddled sequel to OK Computer to a yawn-inducing bucket of ballads not even suited to Coldplay-style slavish imitation. So which is it? Thom Yorke’s psyche has already been picked apart eight ways till Sunday since “Creep” first crawled into the pop consciousness, so there’s no need to engage in any amateur psychology, given that Yorke has made clear he’s not the most trustworthy narrator even on his best days and given that In Rainbows continues to mine the same themes of alienation, societal collapse, and/or “that flavor of gum I like’s not in stores anymore” he’s been exploring since he first stared cross-eyed at us on MTV. What this leaves is a set of songs decidedly less icy than the Kid A / Amnesiac axis (Yorke’s nascent solo career apparently having vented that strain of synthesized musical expression) but still less rocking or expressive than the group’s decade-old OK Computer high water mark. Many of Radiohead’s finest downtempo tracks can be found here, some nearly 10 years old (the live favorite “Nude”) and others ranging from down-at-the-mouth (“All I Need,” “House of Cards”) to unapologetically lovely (“Faust Arp”), with the sort of real melodies and bona-fide songcraft missing from much of the group’s output throughout the 2000s. Which leads back to the business model question—as the music industry’s most high-profile band of free agent brothers, it’s a fascinating bit of career theater to watch Radiohead playing out its options so publicly while the peanut gallery decides whether to vote at the cash register or pickpocket them like everyone else. So sure, it may represent something of a holding pattern while the band mulls its next move, but meanwhile, In Rainbows made ya look, didn’t it? —Corey duBrowa 70 :RISEN MAGAZINE
Artist: Polysics Album: Polysics or Die!!! Label: Myspace Records A tightly wound smash-up of surf rock, synth punk, and tooth-rotting Japanese pop, a first taste of Polysics can be as shocking as a toaster in the bathtub. And 16 consecutive, undiluted doses of this kind of madness might send you straight to the funny farm. While Devo parallels are there, Polysics’s sound is more akin to the Scottish synth-pop combo Bis, though on what must be double the sugar intake. Based on the cohesive flow of this frenzied batch of freakouts, one would never guess this is actually a compilation of various album tracks, singles, and B-sides. “Kaja Kaja Goo” is a shriekfest hurtled forward by ancient video game blips and bleeps. The android vocoded cover of “My Sharona” is a fresh take on an all too familiar hit, while “Catch on Everywhere” features chipmunks on lead vocals. If Polysics’s electric syrup doesn’t stick to your bones, at least keep it around for Halloween parties and Tae Bo sessions. —Sarah Polk
Artist: Super Furry Animals Album: Hey Venus! Label: Rough Trade These Welsh pranksters return yet again, sounding as fresh as they did 14 years ago, and they still write melodies that simultaneously warm the heart like a Beach Boys tune and gleefully slip a whoopee cushion under your seat when you’re not looking. A band by any other name would likely throw listeners with an opening track like 43-second “The Gateway Song,” but for the Furries it’s actually a gateway to some topnotch psychedelic pop. Gorgeous power ballad “RunAway” could easily be a hit the world over if Rough Trade were to push the right buttons. The “Be My Baby” backbeat propels Gruff Rhys’s charming croon on the track without somehow sounding like a novelty. “Into the Night” mistakenly drops Steppenwolf onto a glitzy, old Bollywood set with its Eastern inflections to party rocking effect. The beat seems to be lifted from the Furries’ own “Lazer Beam” from a few years back. It seems that Rhys’s vocal delivery is most likely the glue that keeps this grab-bag of clichés and oft-used musical anecdotes from turning into a Ween album. Whatever the secret, it seems well guarded. No one sounds quite like Super Furry Animals. —Sarah Polk
dept:Sound Artist: Chris Walla Album: Field Manual Label: Barsuk When an instrumentalist from a well-known band takes a solo jaunt, it’s usually to get some things out of his system that are poor fits for the main gig. For Chris Walla, Death Cab For Cutie guitarist/producer, the solo turn actually may make bandmates (and major label Atlantic) jealous, because there are some pop gems here that Ben Gibbard and company would probably rather have. Indeed, it’s hard to figure why Walla decided these 12 tunes weren’t right for the band— perhaps it’s the oblique political edge exhibited in songs like “Archer v. Light,” which directs its lyrics toward an unnamed “senator,” or the Katrinalamenting “Everybody Needs a Home.” Death Cab’s politics tend toward the interpersonal, rather than the worldly, after all. As befits a record from a producer—Walla’s credits include The Decemberists and Tegan & Sara—the music begins with layers of sound: a many-Walla’d vocal chorus backed by a drum loop, robotically repeating guitar chords, and synth swells. By contrast, second track “The Score” aims for muscular rock and, absent the studio trickery, reveals the limitations of Walla’s serviceable, but wobbly, voice—reminiscent of labelmate Travis Morrison. However, Walla’s vocal limitations are quickly forgiven—and Gibbard comparions are forgotten—on the strength of the songwriting. “Everybody On,” which arrives halfway through, is a rock anthem in everything but production. The mix may feature no gospel choirs or brass orchestras, but it’s awfully easy to imagine a stadium of lighter-hoisting fans singing along with its band-together-in-tough-times chorus. “Everybody on the boundary wires / on telephones / your signal fires / keep your balance on the line / a thousand miles long,” Walla urges. “It’s not easy here / but we need everybody on.” “Geometry &C” features an irresistible melody, played on lead guitar and also sung dah-de-da style. One suspects that if Walla felt he was running out of such ideas, he’d confine his contributions to Death Cab albums. If anything, it must be a comfort to know that Walla has enough hooks up his sleeve that he feels there’s plenty to go around. —Reid Davis
Artist: Rogue Wave Album: Asleep At Heaven’s Gate Label: Brushfire Records Zach Rogue and company appear to be reaching out to a larger audience, changing teams from indie goliath Sub Pop to Jack Johnson’s eclectic major Brushfire. The band’s sound is evolving as well, away from the sparse tone of the debut and morphing into a real amphitheatre-filling rock band. The Technicolor makeover bears mixed results, though you wouldn’t know it if you looped tracks two through four, a glowing triple play that would have made a pitch-perfect EP. “Like I Needed” has a bouncy pop beat and a hopeful tone paired with some hare-brained lyrics like “camel toe with water fiction” and “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” “Chicago X 12” features vocal help from Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws and happens to sound not unlike that band’s classic album, Let Go. The half-time waltzed, double-time sung “Lake Michigan” likely will be most new listeners’ first taste of the group and is a standout on the band’s uneven third record. —Sarah Polk
Artist: Foreign Born Album: On the Wing Now Label: Dim Mak While not an overnight success by any means (On The Wing Now was actually recorded back in 2005), Foreign Born seems to be on the right track these days, landing a record deal with Steve Aoki’s way-hip Dim Mak label and even scoring placement on a primetime TV show (hot spy comedy Chuck). The featured song “Into Your Dream” is a 21st century tambourine shaker that fits the swinging action scene like a glove. The band pays further homage to the past on “Trial Wall,” belting Bowie’s “Five Years” hook (from over three decades ago) in perfect harmony. Matt Popieluch’s vibrato-laden tenor is equal parts Ian McCulloch and Richard Ashcroft while musically, this melancholy swirl of sound should hold all the Ambulance Ltd. fans over until that band’s next record drops. Their big, washy sound makes them hip enough to play the skuzzy warehouse art space show while their hooks make them accessible enough to be, well, on TV. —Jason Reid
Artist: Amy Winehouse Album: Frank Label: Universal Republic Amy Winehouse’s public image as a harddrinking, hard-fighting, beehive-balancing mess is only as interesting as the music behind it. Fortunately, Back to Black—her second album but her first to get a U.S. release—boldly rejiggered old R&B grooves to fit contemporary attitudes toward sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, vices Winehouse sang about in a deep, grainy voice that sounded much older than her twentysomething years. The success of Back to Black now has prompted the U.S. release of her 2003 debut, Frank. As a songwriter, Winehouse is an observant chronicler of London hipster life and doomed romance, which, however provocative
her songs may be, means the sordidness is never gratuitous. As a vocalist, however, Winehouse sounds less confident on Frank, alternately mimicking Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and Billie Holliday but rarely sounding like herself. Instead of the gritty R&B nostalgia of Back to Black, these older songs set her lyrics to loungey beats that sound like mid-’90s jazzrap (remember Us3?), complete with flute, cocktail piano and scat singing. It may be only a few years old, but Frank already sounds woefully dated. —Stephen M. Deusner
JAN/FEB 2008 - Department 71
Eric Clapton’s prayer for sobriety L
ong considered one of rock ’n’ roll’s iconic guitarists, Eric Clapton had a problem. He was in the middle of a tour in Australia when he realized he couldn’t stop shaking. “For the second time, I’d reached the point where I couldn’t live without a drink and I couldn’t live with one.” As a new father, Clapton knew he had to get back into treatment. In his new autobiography, he states that he did it for his son Conor. “I thought no matter what kind of human being I was, I couldn’t stand being around him like that,” he writes. “I couldn’t bear the idea that, as he experienced enough of life to form a picture of me, it would be a picture of the man I was then.” Clapton had been to rehab and tried to control his drinking, but once again it was controlling him. “I now had two children, neither of whom I was really administering to, a broken marriage, assorted bewildered girlfriends, and a career that, although it was still ticking over, had lost its direction. I was a mess.” His love for his son was a prime motivation. Clapton wanted things to be different for Conor from what he had experienced as a boy. “I had to break the chain and give him what I had never really had—a father,” he writes. Clapton had grown up believing that his grandparents who raised him were actually his parents. His childhood was miserable and he was scrambling to make sure history didn’t repeat itself. Ticking off the days in rehab, he came to the terrifying realization that nothing had really changed about his desires and that he was going to go back outside the safe confines of the treatment center completely unprepared to deal with his addiction. “The noise in my head was deafening, and drinking was in my thoughts all the time,” he writes. “It shocked me to realize that here I was in a treatment center, a supposedly safe environment, and I was in serious danger. I was 72 :RISEN MAGAZINE
Writer: Steve Beard
absolutely terrified, in complete despair. “At that moment, almost of their own accord, my legs gave way and I fell to my knees. In the privacy of my room I begged for help. I had no notion who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether, I had nothing left to fight with,” Clapton confesses. “Then I remembered what I had heard about surrender, something I thought I could never do, my pride just wouldn’t allow it, but I knew that on my own I wasn’t going to make it, so I asked for help, and, getting down on my knees, I surrendered.” That was in 1987. Eric Clapton has now celebrated 20 years of sobriety. It took only a few days after that experience for him to realize that something profound had taken place within his life. “An atheist would probably say it was just a change of attitude, and to a certain extent that’s true, but there was much more to it than that,” he conveys. “I had found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in. “From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety,” Clapton continues. “I choose to kneel because I feel I need to humble myself when I pray, and with my ego, this is the most I can do. If you are asking why I do all this, I will tell you… because it works, as simple as that. In all this time that I’ve been sober, I have never once seriously thought of taking a drink or a drug. I have no problem with religion, and I grew up with a strong curiosity about spiritual matters, but my searching took me away from church and community worship to the internal journey. Before my recovery began, I found my God in music and the arts, with writers like Hermann Hesse, and musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and
Little Walter. In some way, in some form, my God was always there, but now I have learned to talk to him.” In 1991, Clapton’s four-year-old son died from an accidental fall from a Manhattan highrise. “I cannot deny that there was a moment when I did lose faith, and what saved my life was the unconditional love and understanding that I received from my friends and my fellows in the 12step program,” he writes. The song “Tears In Heaven” emerged out of the anguish of the tragedy in order to help him cope. Clapton would go to his 12-step meetings and people would get him coffee and let him vent. On one occasion, he was asked to chair the session on the third step—the one about handing your will over to the care of God. During the session, he recounted the mystical experience he had when he fell to his knees and asked for help to stay sober. “I told the meeting that the compulsion was taken away at that moment, and as far as I was concerned, this was physical evidence that my prayers had been answered,” he relates. “Having had that experience, I said, I knew I could get through this.” Much to his surprise, a woman came up to Clapton after the meeting and said, “You’ve just taken away my last excuse to have a drink.” He asked her what she meant. “I’ve always had this little corner of my mind which held the excuse that, if anything were to happen to my kids, then I’d be justified in getting drunk,” she said. “You’ve shown me that’s not true.” Clapton came to the sudden realization that perhaps there was a way to turn his excruciating pain and tragedy into something that could help someone else. “I really was in the position to say, ‘Well, if I can go through this and stay sober then anyone can.’ At that moment I realized that there was no better way of honoring the memory of my son.”